A revolutionary composite rotary milking parlor has boosted the production and labour efficiency of an Idaho dairy farm.
The Andersen family have farmed in Idaho since the 1980, Ben Andersen recalling he grew up on the family farm which milked 150 cows.
“The farm was well established and put us in a good position to grow so when, in 2005, a 320 dairy farm came up for sale, around 50 miles from home, my father, brother and I formed Andersen Dairy and bought the property.
“Utilising both properties, we increased the original 150 cow herd to 1000 cows within a year.”
At the time of purchase, the new farm had a ‘double 8’ herringbone milking parlour which had been built in 1984.
“That small milking barn was never going to be able to handle the size of the herd we planned to milk,” Ben said “so in 2005 we remodelled it to a double 16 parallel.
“The increased capacity was a big improvement but, within a year, we were milking more than 1000 cows and it was taking 24 hours to milk, three times a day. Looking back, that old barn ran continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from 2005 until the point we commissioned the new parlour in 2015.”
The constant pace and pressure of milking so many cows through limited facilities helped focus the partnership on what they wanted for the future.
“Basically, we wanted to get more efficient with labour. As it is all around the world, it’s always challenging to find and retain good people and we wanted to have a system which would be very labour efficient. We’d been looking at rotaries for around 20 years and thought they’d be the best option,” Ben said.
Around the time the family decided the old milking barn had to be replaced, they read an advertisement in a dairy magazine for a revolutionary new composite rotary platform designed and made by Waikato Milking Systems in New Zealand.
“We really liked the idea of a composite deck which was extremely strong but light and so, in 2015, we went to the World Dairy Expo and met with Waikato Milking Systems’ International Sales Manager, Grant Wisnewski.
“The event gave us a chance to see and understand the advantages of the Centrus Composite Rotary Platform over traditional platforms. We also got to introduce our local dairy dealership, Automated Dairy Systems, to Grant.
“It just happened that, around that time, the first Centrus Composite Rotary Platform had been built and commissioned in Michigan so my father went to see the platform in operation – and that confirmed it was the right way to go.”
Working with Automated Dairy Systems, supported by a specialist team from New Zealand, the construction of the 60 stall Centrus Composite Rotary Platform commenced in April 2016 with the first milking taking place six months later on 9 November 2016.
Transitioning the 1500 cow herd from the parallel milking barn to the new rotary saw 800 cows milked on the new platform on the first day with the balance in the old parlour, and then the total herd milked in the new environment on the second day.
“It wasn’t easy,” Ben Andersen recalls “but then we never expected it would be. It’s a big change going from a parallel environment to a rotary and we allowed a week, milking twice a day, to get the herd accustomed and happy with the new set-up. By the end of that first week, we were able to return to the normal schedule of three milkings a day.”
First impressions of the new milking parlour is how quiet it is. News of the evolutionary new platform “got around” resulting in visits from farmers wanting to see it in operation.
“The first impression is always how quiet it is. The platform’s rubber matting provides comfortable footing for the cows and contributes to the quiet environment. Comparing this platform with the previous parlor, the milking environment has really been transformed. It’s a very quiet, peaceful, productive environment for our cows and milkers.”
The deck surface of the Centrus Composite Rotary is impervious to urine and chemicals with the result that cleaning is now quicker and easier.
“When we set out to build the new milking barn, our goal was to have a labour intensive/efficient operation and we’ve achieved that. We anticipate milking 400 to 500 more cows with three people in the parlour with the same amount of labour,” Ben Andersen said.