When Rick and Cathy Balzer, their son, Scott, and the rest of the family at Balzer Dairy near Owatonna, Minnesota, built a new dairy barn a couple years ago, they also switched to using separated solids bedding distributed by an overhead conveyor system. Previously they had used chopped straw bedding in their tie-stall barn.
In addition to the conveyor, they have two Lely milking robots, an automatic alley manure scraper and a Lely Juno automatic feed pusher. The barn includes a hybrid tunnel ventilation system to drive fresh air to cows— fresh air enters the barn every 40 feet. All the fans are variable speed control, with speed depending on outdoor temperature and humidity.
The Balzers spent several years studying barn options and learning from other barn owners, according to Ben Raasch, farm management support advisor for Dairyland Equipment, the Balzer’s local Lely Center.
“The Balzers wanted to minimize the number of disruptions in the barn and consider everything they could to ensure cow comfort,” Raasch said. “Everyone looks at barn design differently, but I always stress to owners to think of cows first.”
Rick Balzer said other dairy owners who use sand bedding told him they had to move cows when they added new sand, and that disruption would often result in fewer pounds of milk from the cows. “I wanted to prevent that loss of milk,” Rick Balzer said. “The conveyor idea came to me and we worked with our local Lely Center to implement it.”
The conveyor drops the separated solids into the stalls and the Balzers rake the stalls.
“This way I avoid having any skid loader in the barn. It has worked very well and I’m happy we did it,” Rick Balzer said. “The investment in the conveyor was probably less than a skid loader and we save on labor.”
Lely North America is hosting another Lely Journey next week where dairy owners from across North America will visit Midwest dairy operations including the Balzer Dairy. Follow along with the Lely North America Journey Tour on Facebook and Twitter. See the conveyor in action here.