How To Heat A Barn

How To Heat A Barn

OK,  I was just kidding about it being cold last week.  NOW it is cold.  Yesterday we broke a record in my area of Kentucky for the coldest temperature ever recorded.  We had a high of 22 and a low of 10.  Now, that’s cold.

I suppose the upside to the ridiculously freezing temperatures was we were able to “test” our barn heat to see if it works.

In a large dairy farm they don’t have to worry too much about heating anything.  If you put 100 cattle in a space, it will be warm.  Our AI guy has a barn that holds 100 head of cattle & there is no need for heat.  All those warm bodies make the barn feel like a day at the beach.

A smelly, manure-filled, day at the beach.

We don’t have 100 head of cattle to keep our cow barn warm.  Our cow barn is a thin-walled shed without insulation.  And, no cattle “live” in it.  Whatever the temperature is outside, that’s pretty much the temperature in our cow barn, minus the wind.

My husband has spoiled me.  He has made it possible, and comfortable to milk our sweet cow, Faith, even when it is freezing and snowing.

milk barn 30

Our cow barn was snug and cozy thanks to this guy.  This heater is mounted in the upper corner of the barn.  It blows a tropical heat wave directly onto where we milk the cow.  Which Faith happily takes full advantage of.  In the winter, during milking,  she scoots her giant self over until she is perfectly positioned underneath this heater.  She stands directly under it so that the hot air blows on her back.  Our cow is no dummy.

I can turn this heater on and off.   We don’t want to heat it the cow barn all the time.  We just want it warm when we use it, so this heater is connected to a timer.


This is the timer.   We have it set to come on 30 minutes before we milk the cow.  It is wonderful.  When we arrive at the barn it is almost as warm as my house.

Last year, we winterized the sink in the cow barn and used the frost free pump for water.  If we wanted needed hot water, it had to be brought up from the house.  We managed but it was not ideal.  This year we are attempting to keep the hot water in the barn running.


This is the sink in the cow barn.  It is covered in an old sheet.

milk barn 17

See what’s hiding under the sheet?  A little radiator under the sink.  That big-0l- heater mounted in the corner of the barn only comes on just before milking time.  The other 23 hours of the day the entire barn is freezing.  To keep the pipes under this sink from freezing we have placed an oil-filled radiator underneath it.  It is set on the lowest setting.

We don’t want “hot.”  We just want “not frozen.”

The radiator has kept our pipes from freezing.  We put the sheet over the sink so this radiator will just keep the air around the pipes above freezing.  Without the sheet the little radiator will be trying to heat the entire barn.  Which would be impossible, and expensive.

The sheet creates a small pocket of air around the pipes that can be kept above 40 degrees.  So far, it is working.  I’m not recommending it.  It’s not for everyone.

We also have another space heater around for back-up.  Last week when everything froze unexpectedly,  I used it to thaw out my water lines (among other things).

Space heaters scare me.  When in use, it is glowing hot and if a piece of hay touches it you have a bonfire.  There is a lot of hay in our cow barn and I don’t like indoor bonfires.  So, I only use space heaters when supervised.

The pump we were using last winter was not built for cold weather.  The old pump simply did not work if the temperatures dropped below 30 degrees.  Nothing.  Not at all.  Period.  Even with a heater pointed directly at it.  If that heater spent the night in a barn below 30 degrees there was no reviving it……. it hibernated from December until Spring.

Consequently, last winter when it decided to be below zero for 2 years (or was it 3 months?) we hand milked.

Hand milking has its perks:

  • easy clean up
  • no electricity necessary
  • no heat necessary
  • lose 7 pounds in a month
  • upper body workout

BUT, hand-milking has it’s downsides too:

  • If you are milking more than one cow it is very time consuming
  • If you are milking only one cow it is also time consuming
  • It makes my hands cramp
  • It makes my arms cramp
  • It’s too cold out to be leaning into this cow for 20 minutes with cramping hands
  • I’m a big baby
  • I don’t want to lose 7 pounds

Therefore, we wanted an electric milk-pump that would work, even when it’s 2 degrees out.

We bought a mac-daddy, beast of a milker that can milk 2 cows.  It’s the bomb and I love it.  It’s old.  It’s indestructible (I think).  It’s dependable.  It’s easy to work on.  It’s perfect.

It performs the exact same in the cold weather as it does in summer.  Milking has been smooth, even with the record low temperatures we have been experiencing.

The journey from the house to the cow barn is still frigid,  but the barn is comfortable, the water is hot, the milker works and the cow loves milking time.

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