Newbrabant Open House
Saturday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
20675 Concession 4 Rd., Lancaster, Ont.
By Tom Collins
LANCASTER — Peter Sommers and Melanie Trottier know it will take at least a year before they can see the true effects of their vast $7-million expansion that includes two new barns, an innovative sand-manure separator and new rotary parlour to milk 600 cows.
Newbrabant Farms Ltd., east of Cornwall, designed the barns to enhance herd health, increase milk production and improve cow comfort.
The farm’s old barn, with a double-12 parallel milking parlour, was built in 1995. This time Sommers and Trottier built two new side-by-side freestall barns about 1,000 ft. from the old barn. A walkway connects the two new barns. A new rotary parlour with 50 stalls, a cathedral ceiling and a wall of windows is situated at the end of one of the new barns. Each new barn measures 480 ft. by 105 ft. with a combined 750 stalls. The old barn will be used for heifers.
One milking barn has been open since July. The second barn will be up and running by early November. In the meantime, the farmers are milking 400 of their Holsteins in the new barn and the other 200 in the old barn. The new GEA rotary parlour, built by Lawrence’s Dairy Supply, has the capacity to milk 1,200 to 1,400 cows. At 50 stalls, it is the largest rotary parlour in Ontario. The Walker family in Aylmer in Western Ontario also has a 50-stall rotary parlour.
“It takes some time to see the benefit,” said Sommers, who farms with his wife Louise, daughter Melanie Trottier, and son-in-law Jason. “If you start eating healthier, are you going to be healthier the next day? Sometimes it takes a year. We hope to get higher milk production and longer longevity, but that takes time.”
Transitioning away from shavings and mats to sand bedding was one key step to improving herd health. They even found an innovative system to recycle the sand. A DariTech DTX Manure Separator — located between the two new barns in a 76 ft. by 116 ft. building — extracts the sand from the manure and the DariTech Sand Cannon system uses recycled water to wash the sand before re-using.
The sand then sits in a pile for a couple of weeks to drain excess moisture. Workers then transfer the sand back to the stalls to bed the milking cows. It is also interesting to note that the solids from the DTX manure separator are utilized to bed the heifers in the old barn.
When both barns are operating, Newbrabant figures the sand recycling system will be running 12 hours a day. Sand can be forever reused, said Sommers.
“We hope we have less mastitis and less hock problems,” said Sommers, who has already noticed fewer hock lesions. “That’s one of the reasons we’re going to sand, to see if we can eliminate some of the mastitis and some of the hock problems.”
The farm expects to recapture about 85 % of the sand trapped in manure. This is DariTech’s third sand recovery system sold in Ontario, but just the first in Eastern Ontario. Sommers and Trottier estimate the complete sand separator system, including the building that houses it to cost about $1 million and would only be financially feasible for larger farms.
Here are some other key features of Newbrabant Farms:
Flushing it out
The new Biolynk flush system now only requires the push of a button. Recycled water from the rotary parlour is pumped up from metal floor flaps to clean the holding area built with a slight incline. It takes fewer than five minutes to clean the holding area.
“It used to take us about an hour to wash down the old milking parlour. Now it takes somebody two seconds to push a button,” said Melanie, who runs the dairy operation.
Dairy Lane Systems — based near London in Western Ontario — is the building contractor that also installed barn equipment, the sand separator system and the flush system.
“They have the expertise in the sand-handling equipment,” said Sommers. “There was no local dealer handling that equipment. They have a lot of experience putting the whole package together for larger barns.”
They opted away from a manure alley scraper for the milking cow sections as alley scrapers caused too many cow injuries in their old barn. A Mensch scraper is attached to a skid steer to clean the alleys. When the cows enter the holding area and rotary parlour, an employee climbs on the skid steer, unfolds the scraper and pushes the manure down each alley. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to scrape one barn during each milking.
Knowing that the new dairy facility with the sand separator and 50-stall rotary parlour would undoubtedly increase their hydro bill, Melanie and Peter looked at other ways to cut back. One example of this was to switch from halogen to energy-efficient LED lights.