Editor’s note: The following case study was handled by Tim Rutledge, dairy nutritionist from Reinholds, Pa.

Tim Rutledge had been trying to get one of his clients to remodel the stalls in a free-stall barn. The stalls weren’t big enough, especially length-wise. Many of the cows would stand in the stalls, half in, half out. And, that was leading to foot problems and reduced dry matter intake.

“I felt that it was the No. 1 issue on the farm that was holding him back,” Rutledge says.

For a year and a half, Rutledge had been making these suggestions, but it was an uphill battle. The clients agreed that something needed to be done, but they didn’t do anything about it. It seemed like they needed another little nudge or push to get it done.

Then, this past August, while several family members were in the fields chopping corn silage, Rutledge was able to engage a remaining family member in the barn. Pretty soon, word got out that a conversation was going on regarding possible remodeling, and one by one the family members stopped their field work and made it to the barn. Before long, all tractors had stopped.

“To me, that was just a big shock,” Rutledge says. “You’d think when guys are in the fields chopping corn silage, you wouldn’t get anything (else) done.”

But now he had everyone in one spot. It was really important to have everyone’s attention, so they could all see the same issues at once. The previous conversations had usually involved just one family member at a time, which may have been part of the problem.

Rutledge showed them stall dimensions that would work. He had documentation from Penn State University, as well as Nigel Cook, clinical associate professor in food animal production medicine at the University of Wisconsin, who is well known for his work in stall design and cow comfort.

“I think it just clicked in everyone’s mind this is where it should be and this is what we should do,” he says.

And, one family member commented, “This is going to make a lot more money than us being out in the fields.” The remodeling should be completed within the next couple of months.