5 Barn Improvements to Make You a Better Farmer

Streamline your workflow and increase efficiency by making minor changes to your your barn space and farm plan.

by Amy Grisak

Days are never long enough for a farmer. From dawn to well into the night, tasks arise that often require immediate action. Having to search for tools or equipment is an enormous time waster and incredibly frustrating when you can’t find what you need, especially when you know you have it.

Rather than banging your head on the side of the barn, the best resolution is to spend the effort to set up an organizational system to streamline your barn. These farm and stable owners offer a few tips to make your barn more organized to minimize stress and enjoy your vocation even more.

1. Minimize Clutter

“We are perpetually trying to keep our barn organized,” says Jennifer LittleBear of Jacobs Heritage Farm in Copley, Ohio. “My big thing is fighting clutter. We make an effort not to keep things that we won’t need. You see a lot of farms with piles of junk laying around, and you know they’ll never use it. We’re fighting against that.”

Jennifer and her husband Jason are ruthless when it comes to purging the extra items. They burn scrap wood instead of keeping it in piles. They sell useful items on Craiglist, which also provides funds for more of their projects, and even set goods on the curb for people to take for free.

Sue Miller of Victory Gallop Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Bath, Ohio, also needs to keep the barn free of clutter to minimize confusion and keep the operation running smoothly. “Everything has a place. I don’t like a lot of excess in the barn,” she says. She’s pragmatic when it comes to removing items she no longer uses.

2. Coordinate Tack and Tools

Miller keeps all of the tack and grooming tools coordinated with each of the horses so anyone can step in knowing what gear goes with each horse. She numbers the stalls from 1 to 9 and coordinates the tack by labeling it with a dog tag (as you would buy at a pet store) with the number of the stall.

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She also thinks ahead with the necessary equipment to keep it tidy, as well as efficient.

“Don’t have the lead ropes hanging and dangling,” Miller says.

She wraps lead ropes to keep them from dangling to the ground, yet all it takes is a gentle pull to release the rope. The halter goes on the same hook, on top of the lead rope because, as Miller notes, you reach for the halter first.

Even if you don’t keep horses or other animals, take a cue from Miller and arrange tools and supplies in the order they’ll be used to streamline your workflow.

3. Contain the Mess

When a horse, cow or any other animal is moving in and out of a stall, they tend to drag some of their bedding with them. When you have multiple animals, this means you spend a lot of time i sweeping the aisles. The trick is to find a way to keep the shavings or straw in the stall as much as possible.

Miller keeps cross-ties in the stalls so if a horse relieves itself during grooming, it’s contained and easy to clean. Same goes if the horse is shedding. She also keeps the shavings a couple of feet back from the doorway to reduce the amount pulled into the aisle.

4. Label Feed and Medical Supplies

The more animals you have, the more complicated feeding time can be. Miller says she keeps the feeding and medication schedule straight by having a clipboard above the feed cart explaining rations for each animal. She keeps a big scoop and little scoop the person on feeding duty can be sure of the feeding amounts. Instead of telling someone to feed a half scoop, she simply notes to feed a small scoop to eliminate guessing.

For medications, which are often given during feeding, she has the horse’s name and dosage written on the bottle so there’s no question as to what they receive and when.

5. Plan Ahead

Jason LittleBear thinks to the future when it comes to projects around the farm.

“His advice is to do work now to prepare for the future,” says Jennifer LittleBear. Even though they’re young, they’re thinking decades down the road to when they can’t lift or do the strenuous physical labor required in so many farm tasks. “We don’t want to have to stop farming because we’re physically unable to. We’ve met old-time farmers, where the kids get office jobs and don’t care about the farm. There are too many hard tasks for the farmer to do by himself. Some lose the farm. It’s terrible.”

To be proactive, the LittleBears purchased three-point quick hitch for their tractor and added pulleys and hoists for lifting things around the barn. “We’re working on automatic waterers that are easy to access, and we are using parts of an old hay elevator to create conveyor systems,” LittleBear says. By the time projects are physically challenging for them, they’ll have a plan in place to make the chores as easy as possible.

Implementing steps to be more organized in the barn saves time and considerable aggravation. Plus, when you have logical systems in place, practically anyone can step in to assist with chores, lessening the workload even more. When you keep things in their place and think ahead, simple tasks stay that way.

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