The farm barn, next to the farm house, is the most important structure of the farm itself, in the Northern and Middle States; and even at the south and southwest, where less used, they are of more importance in the economy of farm management than is generally supposed. Indeed, to our own eyes, a farm, or a plantation appears incomplete, without a good barn accommodation, as much as without good household appointments—and without them, no agricultural establishment can be complete in all its proper economy.
The most thorough barn structures, perhaps, to be seen in the United States, are those of the state of Pennsylvania, built by the German farmers of the lower and central counties. They are large, and expensive in their construction; and, in a strictly economical view, perhaps more costly than required. Yet, there is a substance and durability in them, that is exceedingly satisfactory, and, where the pecuniary ability of the farmer will permit, may well be an example for imitation.
In the structure of the barn, and in its interior accommodation, much will depend upon the branches of 287 agriculture to which the farm is devoted. A farm cultivated in grain chiefly, requires but little room for stabling purposes. Storage for grain in the sheaf, and granaries, will require its room; while a stock farm requires a barn with extensive hay storage, and stables for its cattle, horses, and sheep, in all climates not admitting such stock to live through the winter in the field, like the great grazing states west of the Alleghanies. Again, there are wide districts of country where a mixed husbandry of grain and stock is pursued, which require barns and out-buildings accommodating both; and to supply the exigencies of each, we shall present such plans as may be appropriate, and that may, possibly, by a slight variation, be equally adapted to either, or all of their requirements.
It may not be out of place here, to remark, that many designers of barns, sheds, and other out-buildings for the accommodation of farm stock, have indulged in fanciful arrangements for the convenience and comfort of animals, which are so complicated that when constructed, as they sometimes are, the practical, common-sense farmer will not use them; and, in the learning required in their use, are altogether unfit for the use and treatment they usually get from those who have the daily care of the stock which they are intended for, and for the rough usage they receive from the animals themselves. A very pretty, and a very plausible arrangement of stabling, and feeding, and all the etceteras of a barn establishment, may be thus got up by an ingenious theorist at the fireside, which will work to a charm, as he dilates upon its good 288 qualities, untried; but, when subjected to experiment will be utterly worthless for practical use. All this we, in our practice, have gone through; and after many years experience, have come to the conclusion that the simplest plan of construction, consistent with an economical expenditure of the material of food for the consumption of stock, is by far the most preferable.
Another item to be considered in this connection, is the comparative value of the stock, the forage fed to them, and the labor expended in feeding and taking care of them. We will illustrate: Suppose a farm to lie in the vicinity of a large town, or city. Its value is, perhaps, a hundred dollars an acre. The hay cut upon it is worth fifteen dollars a ton, at the barn, and straw, and coarse grains in proportion, and hired labor ten or twelve dollars a month. Consequently, the manager of this farm should use all the economy in his power, by the aid of cutting-boxes, and other machinery, to make the least amount of forage supply the wants of his stock; and the internal economy of his barn arranged accordingly; because labor is his cheapest item, and food the dearest. Then, for any contrivance to work up his forage the closest—by way of machinery, or manual labor—by which it will serve the purposes of keeping his stock, is true economy; and the making, and saving of manures is an item of the first importance. His buildings, and their arrangements throughout, should, on these accounts, be constructed in accordance with his practice. If, on the other hand, lands are cheap and productive, and labor comparatively dear, a different practice will prevail. 289 He will feed his hay from the mow, without cutting. The straw will be either stacked out, and the cattle turned to it, to pick what they like of it, and make their beds on the remainder; or, if it is housed, he will throw it into racks, and the stock may eat what they choose. It is but one-third, or one-half the labor to do this, that the other mode requires, and the saving in this makes up, and perhaps more than makes up for the increased quantity of forage consumed. Again, climate may equally affect the mode of winter feeding the stock. The winters may be mild. The hay may be stacked in the fields, when gathered, or put into small barns built for hay storage alone; and the manure, scattered over the fields by the cattle, as they are fed from either of them, may be knocked to pieces with the dung-beetle, in the spring, or harrowed and bushed over the ground; and with the very small quantity of labor required in all this, such practice will be more economical than any other which can be adopted. It is, therefore, a subject of deliberate study with the farmer, in the construction of his out-buildings, what plans he shall adopt in regard to them, and their fitting up and arrangement.
With these considerations before us, we shall submit such plans of barn structures as may be adapted for general use, where shelters for the farm crops, and farm stock, are required; and which may, in their interior arrangement, be fitted for almost any locality of our country, as the judgment and the wants of the builder may require.
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