Barn move helps Waupaca Co. family recover from fire

Dan Hansen
Dan and Marcy Wentworth, in front of their new barn and new concrete block wall, are hoping to bring their dairy cows back to the farm in a few weeks.

TOWN UNION – On Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, Dan and Marcy Wentworth lived the nightmare nearly every dairy farmer dreads.

Just before 3:30 p.m. there was a sudden, dramatic wind shift, and gust of wind sent sparks flying from a small brush pile they were burning to a stack of square bales, and from there an ember was carried into the haymow.

Despite the best efforts of 10 fire departments from throughout Waupaca County (with many firefighters remaining on the scene for over seven hours) their 100-by -36-foot dairy barn and milk house were gone. A silo and grain bin also were damaged.

“Fortunately, the cows were out on pasture that day,” recalled Marcy. “They were upwind, but came up to the barnyard fence and watched. We got all the heifers (six of them) out but lost two due to smoke inhalation as well as one cow that was in a paddock downwind. So in that sense, we were very lucky.”

Dan then began searching for a place to house and milk more than 50 animals for the coming winter. “We found a barn six miles away,” he said. “It was challenging hauling feed, and even more so during the days when the roads were icy.”

Barn search begins

Instead of building a new barn, they wanted to find a suitable existing one that could be relocated to their farmstead.

“We wanted a classic two-story barn but building a new one would cost too much, and if we built a single-story barn we’d still have to build another storage shed. ” said Dan. “We also wanted to economize by using as much recycled material as possible.”

“With so many old farm buildings being torn down every year, we wanted to save one if we could,” added Marcy.

Dan found what he was looking for about four miles away at the site of the former Dennison Building and Supply.

After more than an hour of crew members adjusting the axles to make a sharp right-hand turn, the barn was ready to head down the home stretch.

“The property had been sold to a sand mining company, and Rod (Dennison) told me that two buildings would have to be moved off the site,” said Dan.

One of those buildings was an 80-by -40-foot two-story barn with a strong steel hip roof that had been used for milking cows only about a year before the family went into the lumber business.

“We agreed on a price, and started preparing to move the barn,” said Dan.

Preparations for the move

A portion of one end had been used as a showroom for the lumber business, and had drywall and even a fireplace display.

It was also attached to the main showroom and office, so that end had to be shored up with additional framing, and new support material was added to the north side where time and weather had taken a toll.

“Those preparations for the move were the easy part, getting permits for actually moving the building were a lot harder,” said Dan. “We had to get a permit from Waupaca County, and from the utility companies who had to move 12 sets of wires. But the hardest part was getting a permit from the state DOT to move the building less than a mile on Highway 22.”

Dan became so frustrated by the bureaucratic red tape that he considered another barn that didn’t need to be moved on a state highway. But persistence paid off, and the move finally got underway as the last week of June began.

In the faint pre-dawn light, Dan Wentworth (lower right) is barely visible as he watches his new barn begin its journey.

Moving day

By day’s end June 27, the barn had been removed from its foundation by Schutte Movers of Merrill, and was ready to get on the road.

As the sun began to peer over the eastern horizon on Jun 28, the barn entered Dennison Road, made a left turn onto County Trunk O, and then moved along State Highway 22, with ease.

The movers left the state highway and headed south on County O. They reached the intersection of O and Symco Road by around 6 a.m. But then had to jack up the building several times in order to turn the axles perpendicular to the side of the barn so they could square up the back end of the building for the move west on Symco Road.

After jacking, cribbing and adjusting the axles again, the building was on the move shortly after 7:30.

The final leg of its move, took the building off the road and across the Wentworth’s field. A late morning rain halted the move a few feet short of its final destination.

The next day it was backed into its permanent location, the axles were removed and cribbing was put in place to support the building until a new foundation could be completed.

Completing the project

Because the new barn is four feet wider than the old foundation, a new concrete block wall was erected on the south side. The stone wall on the north side was reinforced with gunite sprayed on concrete.

Once the concrete is properly cured, the cribbing will be removed and the building will be lowered onto its new foundation. The west end of the barn will be boarded up, a new milk house will be built, and a single-story addition will be constructed on west end to match the length of the original barn.

Lever tie-stalls will replace the stanchions that had been in the old barn. “We’ll lose a few stalls, but the stalls will be larger and the cows will be more comfortable,” said Marcy.

Dry cows are already back on the farm, and Dan is hopeful the entire herd will be back before the end of August. “I’m really looking forward to milking in our new recycled stall barn,” he said.