Stewiacke Warm-Box Milk Bars - Free-Access Milk Feeding in Cold Calf Barns

Table of Contents

Materials List to Build 'ONE' Unit - Stewiacke Warm-Box Milk Bar

  • 1 2/3 sheets ¾-inch spruce select or equivalent plywood
  • 1/3 sheet ¾-inch pressure treated plywood (optional)
  • 1 - 2" x 4" x 8-feet lumber
  • 3 - 2" x 4" x 8-feet lumber ripped in half to make 2" x 2"
  • 1½ sheets of 1.5-inch Styrofoam insulation
  • 1 pound 2-inch deck screws
  • 3 hinges
  • 2 latches
  • 1 door pull
  • wood glue
  • silicone sealant
  • 1/6 sheet 0.25-inch rockboard or equivalent (set behind baseboard heater)
  • 3 Peach teats, 3 one-way valves, plastic tubing (available from local suppliers or NASCO)
  • 3 - 4-inch PVC sewer pipe end caps (use 4.5-inch hole saw if available to make proper sized holes)
  • 1 - 300 watt, 110 volt baseboard heater (22-24-inches long) and thermostat
  • 1 - 'NOMA' outdoor, heavy-duty, multi-program, 24-hour timer (Canadian Tire part #52-8845-8)
  • 1 - duplex 110 volt receptacle
  • 1 - 4-inch-square axial fan, 105 cfm., e.g., Dayton 3VU65 (ball bearing) or 4WT47 (sleeve bearing)
  • 14 gauge electrical wire, male and female connectors
  • 1 custom built heat deflector / barrel stop
  • 1 custom built axial fan mounting bracket
  • 200 Litre (45-50 gallon) plastic barrel
  • Agitator
    • Dayton 1/20-HP gearmotor, 96 RPM, model 1LPV1
    • 24 inches - 2" x 4" x 1/8" aluminium channel for gearmotor mount
    • About 33 inches - stainless steel rod for shaft - 5/16-inch to match gearmotor shaft, or 3/8-inch, and machine for motor attachment.
    • 2 - 1.5" x 6.5-inches x 1/8-inch stainless flat stock for mixing paddles
    • Rubber coupling hose - 5/16-inch i.d.
    • 1 - 1" x 2" x 4" UHMW polyethylene block - shaft bearing block
    • #10 x ¾-inch SS screws
    • #10 x 2-inch SS screws
  • Conduit for milk lines
    • 36" - 1.25-inch PVC pipe
    • 1.25-inch pipe clamp

Optional:

  • Plastic sheet or equivalent to cover nipple wall for ease of cleaning (recommended)
  • Plastic sheet or equivalent to cover floor for ease of barrel movement and cleaning
  • Ceiling light (LED)
  • Thermometer
  • Guide hooks for plastic milk line

    Photo Album- Stewiacke Warm-Box Milk Bar

    Photo 1 . The warm box (#5) keeps milk at about 20°C and prevents nipples from freezing in this cold (below freezing) calf housing.

Photo 1. The warm box (#5) keeps milk at about 20°C and prevents nipples from freezing in this cold (below freezing) calf housing. The warm box is positioned at a pen to provide free-access milk to a group of calves. An access door, hinges, door pull and latches are seen in the photograph. Calves have free-choice grain, hay, salt and minerals. 

Photo 2. A single electrical plug provides power to the gearmotor agitator, fan and baseboard heater inside the box.

Photo 2. A single electrical plug provides power to the gearmotor agitator, fan and baseboard heater inside the box. Calf records are kept handy in a plastic folder. The entire box could be moved after unplugging the power. Each pen of 5 calves has a warm box and nipple bar.

Photo 3. A calf nurses from a niple on the pen-side of the warm box.

Photo 3. A calf nurses from a nipple on the pen-side of the warm box. The pen-side wall of the box has a plastic surface for ease of cleaning. Each of the three nipples is mounted into a 4-inch PVC end cap. The caps are recessed into the box. Nipples are mounted at about shoulder height of the calf.

Photo 4. A close-up photograph shows the PVC end cap mounted flush with the plastic-coated wall of the warm box.

Photo 4. A close-up photograph shows the PVC end cap mounted flush with the plastic-coated wall of the warm box. To mount Peach Teats into the end cap, use a 7/8 inch hole saw to make the hole in the end cap, lubricate the teat and pull it into position. A 4.5-inch hole saw makes a neat hole for inserting the PVC end cap through the plastic covered plywood. Silicone sealant fills the gap between the end cap and plywood. The brilliant idea to recess the end cap and nipple within the warm box prevents nipples from freezing.

Figure 1 - Accessories detail of the interior of the milkbox.

Figure 1. Accessories Detail

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Figure 2a - A diagram of the nipple side panel  showing the measurements.

Figure 2a. Nipple Side Panel

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Figure 2b - A diagram of the of nipple side panel sowing  measurements.

Figure 2b. Nipple Side Panel

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Figure 2c - A drawing of the outside of the nipple side of the milkbox.

Figure 2c. Nipple Side

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Figure 3 - A diagram of the view of the milk box from the top.

Figure 3. Top "Exploded" View

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Figure 4 - A diagram of the left and right side panels of the milk box.

Figure 4. Box Side Panels (Left and Right)

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Figure 5a - A diagram of the measurements of the door for the milkbox.

Figure 5a. Door

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Figure 5b - A drawing of the outside of the door of the milkbox.

Figure 5b. Door

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Figure 6 - A diagram of the heat deflector, barrel and the axial fan bracket for the milk box.

Figure 6. Heat Deflector - Barrel Stop and Axial Fan Bracket

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Figure 7 - Cutting diagrams of the plywood sheets used for the milkbox.

Figure 7. Cutting Diagrams for Plywood Sheets

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Photo Album - Stewiacke Warm-Box Milk Bar

Photo 5. The interior of the warm box is insulated with 1.5-inch Styrofoam or other suitable material.

Photo 5. The interior of the warm box is insulated with 1.5-inch Styrofoam or other suitable material. The floor has a plastic surface to assist with sliding barrels in and out. To remove the barrel, unplug the power, pull the milk lines out of the barrel and suspend them from the hooks.

Photo 6. A 200-L (50-gal) milk barrel fits inside the warm box.

Photo 6. A 200-L (50-gal) milk barrel fits inside the warm box.An electrical receptacle and 24-hour timer for the agitator are in the left corner. A thermometer rests on the bracket for the gearmotor. A battery-powered LED light is mounted to the ceiling above the opening in the barrel.

Photo 7. An interior view. A 300-watt baseboard heater is the heat source and it is protected by a barrel stop.

Photo 7. An interior view. A 300-watt baseboard heater is the heat source and it is protected by a barrel stop. The barrel stop also serves as a mount for a metal heat shield that protects milk from overheating and forming cottage cheese. There is no insulation around the PVC end caps and nipples.

Photo 8. Rockboard heat barrier protects the plywood wall behind the electric heater.

Photo 8. Rockboard heat barrier protects the plywood wall behind the electric heater.

Photo 9. A 4-inch axial fan is mounted at the top right of the warm box.

Photo 9. A 4-inch axial fan is mounted at the top right of the warm box. The fan has robust ball bearings and a rating of 105 CFM. It is mounted with a hand-made metal bracket. The fan mixes air to provide an even temperature throughout the warm box.

Photo 10. PVC end caps are mounted to square pieces of plywood with wood screws.

Photo 10. PVC end caps are mounted to square pieces of plywood with wood screws. The plywood pieces need holes for the ends of the nipples and the plastic milk lines. There is an air space around the PVC end caps and no insulation. The design permits warm air to bath the end caps and the ends of the nipples.

Photo 11. Details of construction for the nipple mounts are more evident in this close-up view.

Photo 11. Details of construction for the nipple mounts are more evident in this close-up view.

Figure 8 - A diagram of the cuts made to the plastic barrel.

Figure 8. 45 gallon (200 litre) Plastic Barrel

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Photo Album - Stewiacke Warm-Box Milk Bar

Photo 12. This top view shows a mount for the gearmotor.

Photo 12. This top view shows a mount for the gearmotor. The bracket is 1 x 4-inch aluminum channel that has been attached to the plastic barrel with four screws. A piece of plastic electrical conduit has been inserted through the top of the barrel adjacent to the barrel wall. Milk lines are inserted into the conduit. A jig-saw does a nice job of cutting the opening in the barrel.

Photo 13 The agitator has two paddles welded at a 25-degree angle to the shaft.

Photo 13 The agitator has two paddles welded at a 25-degree angle to the shaft. A 1 x 2 x 4-inch UHMW polyethylene block acts as a bearing block for the shaft. The block is fixed to the bottom of the barrel.

Photo 14. Details of conduit construction include holes and a plastic clamp to keep it along the side wall of the barrel.

Photo 14. Details of conduit construction include holes and a plastic clamp to keep it along the side wall of the barrel. The conduit keeps the plastic milk lines from tangling with the agitator and assures the one-way valves touch the bottom of the barrel without curling upward.

Photo 15. Brass, one-way valves are inserted into the end of the milk lines.

Photo 15. Brass, one-way valves are inserted into the end of the milk lines. The valves contain a small stainless or plastic ball. When a calf suckles, the ball rises off its seat and milk flows to the nipple. When the calf stops suckling, the ball falls into its seat and milk stays in the line. Plastic valves are also available. The valves keep milk at the nipple for the calves.

Figure 9 - A diagram of the modifications made to the plastic barrel.

Figure 9. Modifications to Plastic Barrel

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Figure 10 - A drawing of the shaft bearing block.

Figure 10. Shaft Bearing Block

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Figure 11 - A diagram of the motor mount for top of the barrel.

Figure 11. Motor Mount

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Figure 12 - A drawing of the mixing rod for the barrel.

Figure 12. Mixing Rod

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Figure 13 - A drawing of the feed tube guide showing the holes.

Figure 13. Feed Tube Guide

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Photo Album - Stewiacke Warm-Box Milk Bar

Photo 16. At weaning time, the nipples can be covered and protected with 'weaning cups' - plastic caps.

Photo 16. At weaning time, the nipples can be covered and protected with 'weaning cups' - plastic caps.

Photo 17. A close-up view shows the protective weaning cup slips into the PVC end cap and protects the nipple from suckling calves.

Photo 17. A close-up view shows the protective weaning cup slips into the PVC end cap and protects the nipple from suckling calves.

Photo 18. Whole milk in this extra barrel has been acidified and is sitting for a few hours contact time with formic acid.

Photo 18. Whole milk in this extra barrel has been acidified and is sitting for a few hours contact time with formic acid. The milk can be mixed with the agitator.

Photo 19. A dolly eases transportation of a barrel to a warm box.

Photo 19. A dolly eases transportation of a barrel to a warm box.

Gearmotors, Axial Fans, Baseboard Heaters

Gearmotors, axial fans and baseboard heaters were sourced from Acklands-Grainger, Canada, Ltd. www.acklandsgrainger.com The web page includes a locator to help you find a dealer in your area. Readers may be able to source comparable electrical items from their local electrical supplier or contractor. For safety and insurance purposes, choose components with CSA approval and use wiring methods that meet standards for electrical codes.

An example gearmotor is Dayton Model 1LPV1. However, it does not have CSA approval. A similar gearmotor with CSA approval may be available from a local dealer in Canada .

Dayton 1LPV1 Gearmotor, 96 RPM, 20 Torque, 115/230V, TENV. AC Gearmotor, Parallel Shaft, Single Output Shaft, Nameplate RPM 96, RPM @ 50 Hz 80, Input HP 1/20, Gear Ratio 18:1, Voltage Rating 115/230, Full Load Amps 0.62/0.33, Overhung Load 50 Lb, Full Load Torque 20
In-Lbs, 60/50 Hz, Totally Enclosed Nonventilated,
Ambient 40 C, Thermal Protection None, Insulation Class B, Permanent Split Capacitor Motor Type, Rotation CW/CCW, Capacitor Included.

Acknowledgements

This unique invention has been dubbed bovine-in-a-box, sucky-sucky machine, the milky way, and other names by those who built it and visitors to the farm. Leo and Bert Harbers, John, Chris, and Arnold Vissers conceived the idea of a warm-box milk bar to feed their calves in a cold, naturally ventilated barn. They extend a special thank you to "Uncle" Jack Vissers who took their concepts and made the invention a reality and Dr. Frank Schenkels who provided thoughtful advice from day one. Since implementing free-access feeding, Bert states "We no longer have crying babies greeting us when we enter the nursery and I think that's a good thing." The Vissers and Harbers produce quality cattle and milk at Winding River Farms Ltd., 2965 Alton Road, Stewiacke, Nova Scotia B0N 2J0.

OMAFRA thanks the Vissers and Harbers for graciously providing photographs, a materials list and construction diagrams to make this document and for generously sharing their ideas with fellow producers.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Neil Anderson, DVM, MSc/Lead Veterinarian, Disease Prevention-Ruminants
/OMAFRA)
Creation Date: 30 June 2008
Last Reviewed: 28 July 2010