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Two Barns, Two Approaches

December 6, 2008
By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today Editor
 
 

 

Cows are clean, dry and comfortable under the baffles of Helmer Dairy's 3,000-cow cross-vent barn.

When Randy Pater was looking for ideas to build a new dairy barn back in 2005, he took a three-hour drive up to Milnor, N.D., to check out the first cross-ventilated barn ever built for dairy cows.

The Pipestone, Minn., dairy producer liked what he saw and didn't think he needed to look at any other barns. "I was impressed enough to decide that the cross-ventilated barn is what I wanted to build,” he says.

He started construction on his own eight-row, 210'x390' cross-vent in March 2007. Five months later, he was ready to move his first groups of cows into the 600-stall barn.

As with his road trip, Pater hasn't looked back since. At the time of Dairy Today's visit in September, Pater was averaging 83 lb./cow/day on 600 cows. The cows are milked 3X, with 60% on BST, and average 180 days in milk.

"The cross-ventilated barn allowed us to hold production through the summer. We hardly had any milk loss,” Pater says. Breeding held up as well, with pregnancy rates over the past 12 months averaging 20% and dipping to just 18% during the summer months.

"We can hit as high as 24% on pregnancy rates in the new barn,” he says. "In the old barn, a not-well-ventilated freestall barn, we really struggled sometimes through July and August with breeding.”

In the old barn, cows would bunch up on hotter days and make heat stress even worse. "In the new barn, there is absolutely no bunching,” Pater says. And with air speeds that range from 3½ mph in the feed alleys to 6½ mph under the baffles positioned over freestalls, flies aren't a nuisance. "We don't spend anything on fly control,” he says.

Pater's barn is configured into eight pens, each sized to hold 80 cows. The first pen is designated as the fresh-cow pen, five pens are for breeding groups and two pens are for late-lactation, far-off groups.

Dry cows are housed and calved at the old facility, with the old double-six parlor serving as the hospital parlor for the dairy. Fresh cows are housed there until milk is salable, and sick cows are taken there for treatment.

The new milking parlor, a double-12 parallel, can milk the 80-cow pens in 45 to 50 minutes. The small groups mean cows are away from feed and beds less than an hour three times a day. They also mean cows are easier to manage. "We don't need sort gates because it's easy to pick out one cow from 80,” Pater says.

Cooling pads on the west side of the building serve as the barn's air inlets and air conditioning. In winter, Pater lowers curtains over the outside of the pads to prevent air moving through the pads and directly down on cows. There's a 4" fresh-air inlet above the cooling pads for winter. Thirty-six 52" fans on the east side of the building are available to pull air through the barn.

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - December 2008

 
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