By Tom Collins
IROQUOIS — It took two years to construct, but a year after first using a rotary parlour that combined new parts from Australia and used parts from Brinston, Josh Biemond says he would never dream of using anything else.
Biemond, who runs Upper Canada Creamery at Iroquois with his brother Rudi, told Farmers Forum that the cows love to be on the new rotary parlour.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “We don’t chase any cows any more. Our biggest problem is they don’t want to get off. And that’s not a rough problem to have.”
Biemond first saw this particular rotary parlour in action while in Australia on an organic farmer student exchange in 2012. Four of the 12 farms he visited had rotary parlours made by Allenby Engineering. Biemond liked the simplicity and longevity of the brand; much-needed aspects in a country without supply management.
Two years later, the Biemonds had Allenby custom make a 24-stall rotating platform and anything specific to a rotary, such as the centre gland, round pipes and wash trays. The Biemonds bought the milking units, computers, vacuum pump, wash system and pulsator control used from the Tibbens’ old double-12 parlour in Brinston.
Biemond said to order the parts from Australia cost about $56,000, and it cost another $7,000 to ship to his farm.
“Australians understand what true costs are in a dairy system, so there’s no inflation on their dairy products,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s a competitive market there, and everyone knows what their cost per litre is. There’s no room for bells and whistles. There’s no room for extras.”
The rotary parlour was delivered to the farm in a 20-foot sea container in pieces with seven pages of instructions. The Biemond brothers and a friend spent two years of their spare time putting it all together and building a 42-ft.-by-62-ft. shed to house the parlour.
“I only have three pieces that I don’t know where it goes, and it’s working,” said Biemond. “I don’t know what they’re for, but they must not be important.”
Another hurdle was dealing with the differences between the Australian and Canadian languages.
“The Australians, they speak English, but their vocabulary is totally different than ours,” said Biemond, explaining a stall here is called a bail there. “It’s really hard for some things to understand, in the instructions.”
It didn’t take long for the cows to adjust to the rotary parlour. It took two hours to push the cows through a dry run on day one. On the second day, it took an hour. By the third day, the cows went on their own.
Each milking used to take about 90 to 105 minutes in the old parlour system. Now it takes about 20 minutes to milk 50 to 55 cows from the time the first cow steps onto the platform until the last cow is done. This not only frees up time for the brothers to spend on the organic yogurt business they launched in 2015, but it also allows the cows more time in the field to graze.
The Biemond brothers have seen an improved somatic cell count in the new parlour but with a drought last year and the cows spending more time grazing, it’s hard to tell what impact the parlour had on production.
“As for cow flow and cow comfort, a rotary parlour is really nice,” said Biemond. “I mean, I have to tell myself that because I spent the money on it, right?”