GEA Farm Technologies recently hosted a 2014 Innovation Dairy Tour. Dairy producers throughout the U.S. and from seven different countries attended this two-day event to see industry-leading technologies in action on six progressive Wisconsin dairies, including an automatic teat dipping system, a robotic milking system and several other new industry innovations.
"The goal of the Innovation Dairy Tour was to bring producers from across the globe onto dairies for an intimate look at how their peers are advancing their operations and profits by implementing new technologies," said Matt Daley, president and chief executive officer of GEA Farm Technologies, Inc. "By networking with other dairy producers and the GEA Farm Technologies team, producers learned first-hand how to improve parlor efficiency, milk quality and overall herd performance."
"We chose this group of dairies because they represent progressive thinking and a variety of pioneering technologies," said James Bringe, sales consultant for GEA Farm Technologies who works with many of the six host dairy producers. Bringe explained that these farms are getting more cows through the parlor per hour with fewer employees, are producing high quality milk more efficiently and are able to reallocate existing labor resources. "Overall, these operations have seen vast improvements in efficiency because of the technologies they"ve implemented."
Bringe added that the variety of dairies visited during the tour gave the producers a look into a variety of management strategies and technology options. Dairymen participating in the tour found the format particularly valuable, noting that the personal approach created an environment for open discussion to learn in depth about the technologies these farms have implemented; everything from the decision making process, to installation and tips for improvement.
Dairies visited on the tour and the technologies showcased are as follows:
Dan Val Farms, LLC, Independence, Wis.: Owned by Chris, Karen, Dustin and Drew Ellis, this new facility started production in June of this year and is milking 150 Holsteins with two MIone two-box robotic milking systems. Chris Ellis shared that the cows have transitioned into the system easily and that they have been able to reallocate labor resources to other areas of the operation.
"The new milking system has revolutionized the way we manage our farm," said Chris Ellis. "We are able to prioritize other areas of the farm to receive more personal attention."
Blaken Farms, Melrose, Wis.: This milking facility was built in 2002 by the Blaken family, with a 2 x 16 Magnum 90i parallel parlor. The facility also features the ApolloTMMilkSystem, which applies post‑dip and automatically backflushes after detach, resulting in a superior milk harvesting process every time the cow enters the parlor.
"Because the ApolloTMMilkSystem takes care of post-dipping, it allows our milkers to spend more time up front prepping the cows. Our staff is not as rushed and is more focused on the most important part of milking - cow prep," said Larry Blaken.
Redtail Ridge Dairy, Malone, Wis.: Owned by Joe, Diane and John Thome, this farm milks 1,072 Holsteins and maintains a somatic cell count of 90,000. The Thome family incorporated the FutureCow™ Prep System into their milking routine to improve teat prep procedures and save time in the parlor.
"In one visit to the cow with a FutureCow™ brush, our milking staff can wash, disinfect, stimulate and dry the teats in just a matter of seconds," said Diane Thome, "which has created greater efficiencies in the parlor."
Majestic Meadows Dairy, LLC, Sheboygan Falls, Wis.: This operation is owned by Darin, Dean and Ed Strauss and currently houses 900 crossbred cows. The dairy recently incorporated the NCharge™ Hygiene Production System featuring IntelliBlend™ Technology, which was named one of the top new products of 2014 by Dairy Herd Management through their Innovation Awards program.
"NCharge™ offers incredible technology that has provided us savings all around the dairy," said Darin Strauss, dairy operation manager. "We foam the NCharge™ Pre-Dip and it cleans the cows" teats very well. We also are very happy with the post-dip performance. Meanwhile, we incorporated the NCharge™ Foot Care product into our hoof care program and we were able to cut our copper sulfate usage in half."
Pond Hill Dairy, Ft. Atkinson, Wis.: This unique dairy features a research barn that keeps its high performing cows comfortable in Norbco Single Beam freestalls. This particular barn also features a state-of-the-art cross ventilation system with High Plains curtains that are fully automated to keep the barn temperature at an optimal level – anytime of day or night.
"The new ventilation system has really helped improve cow comfort," said Meagan Cooney, research manager at Pond Hill Dairy. "We can quickly and easily adjust to changing weather and temperatures outside and provide a more consistent inside environment with improved air circulation."
Statz Brothers Farm, Marshall, Wis.: Joe, Troy and Wes Statz are in the process of building a new GEA Farm Technologies" total solutions facility to hold 2,700 cows. The facility is projected to be complete in early November, and is incorporating the latest milking equipment with advanced technologies including a double 50 Magnum 90i VL parallel parlor, FutureCow™ teat prep system, and Metatron 21 meters to name a few, along with three new Norbco 6-row freestall barns outfitted with a complete Houle manure transfer system.
"We put a lot of time and thought into the design of this new facility," said Joe Statz. "The investments we are making in technology and automation are going to improve our operational efficiencies and help make us more profitable."
In addition to the dairy tours, visiting producers made a stop at GEA Farm Technologies" manufacturing plant in Galesville, Wis. Here they took a behind-the-scenes look at the manufacturing and assembly of many of GEA"s products including MIone multi-box automated milking systems, bulk tanks, wash reservoirs and others.
For more information on the Innovation Dairy Tour or to connect with producers from the tour, contact GEA Farm Technologies at 1-877-WS-Dairy (1-877-973-2479).