Remodeling NE Iowa Dairy Milking Systems

Larry Tranel, dairy, dairy/beef and forage field specialist
Dale Thoreson, dairy, dairy/beef and forage field specialist

Dairy producers have identified profit and quality of life as being a major issue due to very low milk prices. These field specialists, in conjunction with the Northeast Dairy Foundation program committee, identified remodeling milking systems as an area where producers need to improve efficiency of cows milked per person per hour, reduce labor hours and improve milking ergonomics to improve profit and quality of life.

In response to the identified need, 30 low-cost parlors were identified, most of which were remodeled since the December, 2001 round of parlor tours. Nineteen parlor tours were set up covering eight days from March 3-14, 2003. The field specialists utilized the swing parabone design concept as a basis for discussion to build parlors and distinguish and separate various options that can be added depending on producer goals and budget. Much of the constructive critique was facilitated with the host producer and/or milking equipment dealer.

Seven hundred and thirty two dairy producers and agri-business personnel attended the low-cost parlor tours. Producers surveyed verified there was a lot of good information presented here, and I was amazed at how creative, simple and low cost these parlors can be. In addition, producers also mentioned the presenters were really good and gave us some great things to think about in building a parlor.

The local radio station KDTH broadcasted live at several of the parlor tours. The agri- news reporter, Jean Casper-Simit, gave a very positive impression of the tour hosts and their work with ISU Extension in working with dairy producers to improve profits and efficiencies. Several agri-business personnel also shared their intentions of multiplying the management practices shared with their producers who were not at the meeting.

In the month following the parlor tours over 20 producers called the field specialists for follow-ups by telephone or an office and farm visits. Several have already begun building. It is estimated that about 30 percent of the parlors built since the last round of tours were built due to the information learned at the previous round of tours. It is anticipated that 25 parlors will be built in the next year due to the information presented at this round of parlor tours.
Participants outlined additional needs for more information on cow comfort, ventilation, long day lighting, freestall and low cost parlor designs.