Planning for 'low-cost' and 'retrofit' parlors

Planning for 'low-cost' and 'retrofit' parlors

When considering converting existing dairy building into a milking center "low-cost" should not be interpreted as "cheap."

AS tie stall dairy producers think about herd expansion, they often consider converting their existing building into a milking center, but "low-cost" should not be interpreted as "cheap," according to industry experts.

Harvesting milk is one of the most important jobs on a dairy farm, so the milking area should be a comfortable, low-stress area for both cows and those milking them.

"Quality milk comes from a quality place of work," said one expert. "Careful planning and attention to details that enhance performance and encourage a proper, consistent milking routine is essential."

Dr. Doug Reinemann, director of the milking research and instruction laboratory and professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently suggested the following 10 dos and don'ts when planning a milking parlor — especially for "retrofit" and "low-cost" alternatives.

The first thing producers should know is how much they can spend, according to Reinemann. This starts with a good financial analysis of the farm operation.

Reinemann said "low-cost" is sometimes defined as a total annual cost of milking, including labor and facilities, that is less than $1.00/cwt.

"To be competitive, build a 'reasonably' sized parlor that fits the budget and avoids putting an extra person in the milking area. Adding more operators never increases the number of cows milked proportionally to the added labor cost."

Reinemann's second tip was to let the installer design the parlor. Meeting all the sanitary and safety regulations is a highly skilled task that a competent milking equipment installer will be able to accomplish, he explained.

Additionally, he suggested having the installer help determine the value of old equipment, because producers sometimes over estimate the value.

"Most milking equipment is only supported for 10-20 years," Reinemann explained. "Replacement parts for older equipment may be unavailable, hard to get, expensive or all of the above. Maintenance on older equipment can be labor intensive."

For the fourth suggestion, he recommended getting the building right. "Buildings generally last a long time and are difficult to remodel. Equipment may last 10 years and is easy to upgrade, as long as the building isn't the limiting factor."

Reinemann stressed the importance of always comparing the cost of renovation versus a new building as remodeling may not always be less expensive than building new.

"Plan the milking center of your dreams, then scale back," he added. "If the budget is limited, spend it on a good building (with a future) and start with a 'bare-bones' milking machine."

Plan the building, stalls and holding area for good cow flow, because lack of good cow movement into and out of the milking parlor is frustrating for both the operator and cows, he continued.

"The milking parlor should be designed to keep the stress level of both the cows and the milkers low," he said.

Turns should be eliminated, but if necessary, he suggested providing adequate space and also reducing the number of direction choices cows must make on their own.

The last five suggestions offered by Reinemann included things like rewiring and putting in good lights, as well as considering energy saving technology, effective drainage and good ventilation.

Old barns often lack an electrical system that is adequate and safe. Wiring wears out and new wiring methods have been developed, he explained. "Often, the existing wiring cannot handle the capacity of the new electrical equipment added to the parlor."

When choosing lighting, he suggested using energy-efficient lights with fixtures designed to operate in a damp location.

Also, the lights should not be the only things that are energy efficient, according to Reinemann.

"Energy efficiency is a good investment," he said, explaining that there is usually about a two- to six-year payback on investments for variable speed drive vacuum pumps, well water pre-cooling of milk, and heat recovery from the refrigeration system.

As for flooring, Reinemann warned producers to beware of amateur concrete work. Additionally, he stressed that wet floors make for a slippery, unpleasant work environment and recommended mono-slope floors, with a minimum slope of 0.25 in./ft., that drain to a gutter rather than multiple slopes to a single drain.

Lastly, Reneimenn said that ventilation is essential to control the levels of moisture, gases and pollutants. Cold weather systems, he explained, provide enough air exchange to provide fresh air, remove moisture and maintain a comfortable temperature. Warm weather systems do the same, but they also require a much more rapid air exchange. He said to be sure to provide adequate controls to allow the system to operate for a time after parlor wash down (and after the operator has left) to remove moisture.

Low-cost and retrofit milking parlors do not need to be a "cheap" compromise to a new milking facility. With honest, objective evaluation of the building, proper planning and attention to detail a sanitary, productive and safe environment can be created for both the cows and the people milking them.


McDonald's China

Following problems with a supplier that hurt both the company's image and sales in China, McDonald's recently announced more stringent food safety practices for its suppliers and restaurants in the country.

The actions announced included increasing the frequency of unannounced audits of food suppliers' production sites, increased video monitoring at critical points of the food production and deploying additional quality control specialists at all meat production facilities to ensure additional food safety and quality supervision measures are executed.

Additionally, McDonald's China said it has created a food safety governance function independent of its supply chain quality management system. Cindy Jiang, senior director of McDonald's global food safety, quality and nutrition, was appointed as interim head of national food safety and reports directly to the chief executive officer.

The company also announced opening a new communication hotline for employees to report unethical and non-compliant food safety practices.

McDonald's China said for a period of six weeks, it recently completed third-party audits on all its meat and produce suppliers to confirm restaurants were receiving safe product.

McDonald's China stopped sourcing from the HUSI Shanghai plant and also suspended all sourcing from all other OSI plants in China beginning in late July after five people were detained in connection with the sale of expired products.


Managing silage effluent

Corn silage harvest has begun, and with that comes one common side effect of silage making.

John Tyson, agricultural engineer at Pennsylvania State University Extension, said no matter how much producers try to harvest at the correct moisture and in a timely fashion, silage effluent will happen.

"If you have a silo, upright or horizontal, you have some amount of silage effluent," Tyson said.

Where that effluent ultimately flows to is the issue, according to Tyson.

"From a pollution potential standpoint, silage effluent ranks among the highest sources," Tyson noted.

A common measure of pollution potential is the biological oxygen demand (BOD), which is the amount of oxygen needed to break down the product. Tyson explained that raw domestic sewage has a BOD of about 500 mg of oxygen per liter, while silage effluent often has a BOD of about 100 times that level, around 50,000 mg of oxygen per liter.

To put this into perspective, Tyson said as little as 1 gal. of silage effluent can lower the oxygen content of 10,000 gal. of fresh water to a critical level for fish survival.

"The nutrient concentration of silage effluent, in terms of (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), is very similar to typical liquid dairy manure," explained Tyson. "The pH is typically in the 4.0 range, which is another potential pollution problem and leads to the characteristic vegetation burns around silos."

So what can be done in terms of treatment/disposal? First, Tyson said to think about placement and preparation of the silo. Silos should be located away from open waterways and wells. An unused piece of pasture down by the stream may seem like a nice place for a bunker — right up until the stream becomes polluted. Proper preparation of the site will also help with collection and/or treatment of the effluent. Divert clean water away from the site and layout the site so on-site runoff will move toward a common point for collection and/or treatment, Tyson added.

To limit treatment, try to minimize the amount produced, he recommended. This means ensiling at the proper moisture content.

"When stored at a dry matter content of 30%, effluent flow is greatly reduced. Covering horizontal silos also helps reduce the prolonged flow of effluent," he said.

However, even when properly located and minimized, there is still effluent to handle, Tyson said. There are several methods to handle effluent. The most used method is incorporation with a liquid manure system, he added.

"Be very careful when mixing silage effluents with manure. Hydrogen sulfide and other poisonous gases are produced, and it should not be done if the storage is covered or under the barn."

The second option, Tyson said, is land application to a crop field or grass filter strip. If this is done, he stressed that effluent must first be diluted with water if applied to a growing crop; typically a 1-to-1 ratio will work. The effluent can also be directly applied to fields with a non-growing crop.

Tyson added that treatment must be addressed on a case by case basis, because each farm is different.

Volume:86 Issue:36

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