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A frame that holds the head of a cow in place, especially to facilitate milking. — Webster, 1882

Each cow turned into her own stall and put her head between her own stanchions. They never made a mistake. -Farmer Boy, Chapter 5, “Birthday”

A cattle stanchion is made of vertical metal bars or wooden members through which a cow puts its head, then the bars are adjusted with fasteners or wooden pins so that the bars are closer to the cow’s neck, allowing for some movement – even allowing the animal to lie down – while preventing the cow from pulling its head out. Depending on the size of the cow’s head, the bars might be seven or eight (or more) inches apart, often slanted so that the space was a bit wider at the bottom to allow a bit more head movement.

There were any number of stanchion designs, with fixed bars or sticks of wood replaced with stanchions hung from the top and chained in place at the bottom, allowing for more movement.

A stanchion was for the convenience of the farmer, not for the comfort of the cow. As the cattle would all be lined up with heads in one direction and tails in the other, this made it easier to feed, water, milk, or clean up after the animal. A man could walk along and shake hay from a hay fork at the cattle’s heads with ease, and a trench dug behind the cattle held the droppings in a small space.


stanchion (FB 5)