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Past is present in stately barn

In 1926, Percy Lasby of Moose Jaw, Sask., invested heavily in the latest state-of-the-art industrial livestock handling facilities and built one of North America’s largest wooden barns.

The U-shaped 23,000 sq. foot barn was home to 150 dairy cows, had its own water, centralized feed and milk handling systems and sheltered enough horses to operate more than 1,000 acres of crop and hay land.

Construction took 6,076 person-hours of carpentry, 173,000 board feet of clear Ontario fir, 800 yards of stone, 2,350 bags of cement, 100 French paned windows built in Moose Jaw and 156,000 shingles.

The finest in dairy barn hardware was purchased from the local Thatcher Hardware Company. The most unique piece is a still-functioning metal rail and suspended tub feed system that allowed feed to be loaded from bins in the gigantic loft and carried with little effort to concrete feed bunks located throughout the facility.

Hay was stored on loft floors supported by joists made of clear fir two by 12s on 10-inch centres. A 13 m high gambrel roof that incorporated the latest in “new-style” truss framing allowed for maximum stability and usable hay storage.

In the otherwise flat Regina plains, the north side of barn was backfilled with dirt, creating a ramp that gave hay wagons drive-in access. Hay was loaded into slings and more rails mounted on the inside of the roof peak hoisted it from the carts.

Set into the ground and under the loft ramps are three massive concrete milk sheds for cooling and storage. They open onto the milking parlour. Trap doors in the bunkers’ roofs allowed for milk cans to be lifted out onto waiting wagons.

Large cisterns located in the courtyard collected rainwater from the barn roof.

Today, the barn has been restored by brothers Andrew and Mike Schmitz and their families of Florida and Moose Jaw, who use it to host agriculture meetings, including the 1999 Nuffield Scholar tour and the annual Farming for Profit conferences. This year, it will be home to social events for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association semi-annual meeting and convention Aug. 13-16.

To accommodate these events, the Schmitzes added the vintage 1950s cafeteria from the former Woolworth’s store in Moose Jaw.

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