November 26, 2014

Adopt-a-farm part II

Construction nears finish, will include preventive health tools

TIm Barnum
The new West-end Dairy milk parlor form the outside.
Tim Barnum
Dairy cows at West-end Dairy are currently returning to the free-stall barn from the milk parlor along this long, narrow path. When the new parlor is functional, the return will be about a quarter of this length.
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By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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ADAMS TOWNSHIP — Since the last time West-end Dairy, majority-owned by Dan Fisk, was reported on, the construction of its new milk parlor and adjoining structures has moved forward smoothly.

“We’re still pushing for the first of June (for the parlor to be functional),” Fisk said, adding now that roofs have been constructed over the new structures, the consistent rain recently in the area hasn’t slowed the construction process. “We poured a lot of cement last week.”

Fisk says the main benefit of the new parlor will be the increase in speed it offers.

“I’m thinking our milking times are going to go from about seven hours down to four,” he said. “It’s going to cut our hours back a lot. … It’ll save us a lot in labor.

“It’ll probably allow us to expand with some new cows.”

While the number of cows may increase due to the new milk parlor, unfortunately for some West-end Dairy employees, the workforce will be decreased. Fisk says some lower seniority employees won’t be needed due to the swifter process.

“We’ve already talked to them (low seniority employees) about it,” he added.

But the new double-16 parlor won’t only cut down on milking time; Fisk says it will also be important in keeping a healthy herd.

“Every cow’s going to have a computer chip on her neck,” he said. “Electronic eyes will be watching them.”

Fisk says the electronic monitors, along with computerized sorting gates will assist in keeping cows with health issues away from the rest of the herd, since the sensors will read the computer chips and communicate with the sorting gates to move cows into a new structure reserved for a hospital area, which is attached to the new holding pen, where cows wait to be moved into the milk parlor.

According to Fisk, the hospital area will be reserved for foot trims, pregnancy checks and sick cattle.

However, the chips on the cows’ necks aren’t the only way to discover if a cow is experiencing health problems. The milking units in the parlor will also be communicating information about herd health.

“It’s (milking unit) going to weigh how much milk a cow gives every day. … The milker takes the temperature of the milk. It tells if they’ve got a fever coming on,” Fisk said. “If it’s (milk temperature) up too high, then obviously the cow’s too warm.”

Also, the new path from the parlor back to the free stall barn that cows will walk after milking will include a foot bath to keep the cows’ feet cleaner and healthier.

Brown Dairy Equipment, Bad Axe, is installing milk parlor equipment.

All of the action on West-end Dairy hasn’t been revolving around the new structures, though. Fisk and employees have also been working to get crops planted, but perhaps wish this task had seen a little more action.

“We just started planting hay last week (April 19-25) and we got rained out,” Fisk said. “We’re going to be way behind. I think everyone in the area is.”

He says if the rain would’ve come about four weeks ago, the planting process would be much further along and better off.

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