September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Back to the farm just in time

Ryans install parlor to prepare for the next generation
The Ryans’ existing barn was the right shape and size to accommodate the used double-7 herringbone parlor they found. The facility has an 11-foot ceiling. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN
The Ryans’ existing barn was the right shape and size to accommodate the used double-7 herringbone parlor they found. The facility has an 11-foot ceiling. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN

By By Krista M. Sheehan- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

GOODHUE, Minn. - Just as the Ryans were looking toward retirement from milking cows, their son came into the picture.
"I went to college, got away from home and saw other farms. I saw the potential in our farm," Eric Ryan said. "I knew a parlor was in our future."
Ryan and his parents, Chuck and Diane, milk 135 cows on their farm near Goodhue, Minn. Last summer, the Ryans retrofitted a double-7 herringbone parlor into their 40-stall stanchion barn.
"It makes life a lot easier," said Ryan, who returned to the farm full-time in 2009 after attending the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for one year.
When multiple heifers calve in, it's easier for them to learn the flow of the parlor from other cows rather than Ryan trying to train them to walk into the stanchions.
"It looked like a circus at times," Ryan said about milking in the stanchion barn.
Since installing the parlor, milking time has been reduced. While milking in the stanchions, one person would switch in 20 cows at one time while another person milked the other 20. It took almost four hours to milk. Now, milking only takes two hours and 15 minutes.
"There's a lot more cleanup involved with a parlor - about 45 minutes after milking - but I don't mind it," Ryan said.
When the Ryans need to take a night off from milking, the parlor is a big help.
"It's easier to have someone come in to do chores if we need to go to a wedding or somewhere else," Ryan said.
Currently, Ryan and Diane take care of the milking while Chuck mixes feed and scrapes the freestall barn.
"One person could do it, but it takes two people to do quality work," Ryan said about milking in the parlor.
The Ryans do all the work themselves and have no employees.
The parlor has been better for Ryan's knees.
"It's a lot less wear and tear," he said.
Ryan has had surgeries on both knees due to sports injuries in high school.
"Milking in a stanchion barn wouldn't have lasted too long for me. It involved a lot of walking and intensive labor," Ryan said. "Now my legs feel better at the end of the day."
With his whole dairy career ahead of him, Ryan is thankful for a parlor that is easy on his knees.
During his year in college, Ryan realized dairy farming would be his future.
"I worked for a dairy farmer who had an 80-cow tiestall barn in River Falls. I learned to like it a lot more working for someone else and not just having my mom and dad tell me what to do," Ryan said.
Ryan came back to the farm just in time.
"My parents were looking to slow down," he said.
At the time, they were down to milking 65 cows in the stanchion barn with the herd housed in a freestall barn the Ryans built in 1998.
None of Ryan's siblings wanted to farm, and Ryan would be another generation in his family to dairy on the farmsite, which his parents bought in 1990.
When he returned in 2009, Ryan bought 18 cows to add to the herd. The next year, he bought 13 more heifers.
"Putting in a parlor needed to be done," Ryan said.
They knew they wanted to use the existing barn because it would reduce the price of the upgrade. They could also use their existing milk house.
"This barn was a nice size and shape for a remodel," Ryan said.
The facility measured 36- by 100-feet with an 11-foot ceiling.
Although they knew they wanted to remodel, they only had a few general ideas about the type of parlor to install.
"We wanted something simple that didn't cost a fortune, but we didn't want something cheap because we didn't want to sacrifice everything," Ryan said.
After looking around, they found their 4-year-old double-7 herringbone parlor through a dealer.
"For the shape it was in and the price, it was reasonable," Ryan said.
On May 29, they started the remodel, cutting the pipeline in half and milking in 20 stalls on one end of the stanchion barn.
Less than a month later on June 22, they were milking for the first time in their updated facility. It had everything they needed without going overboard on the extras. They started with no automatic takeoffs and no rapid exits, although there is enough room for them if they want to remodel in the future. They dug a pit for the parlor and raised the floor of the parlor, which is slanted towards slats to take the drainage to a 5- by-8-foot pit outside.
Within the next year, the Ryans plan to go through transitioning the farm. Their main goal is to have Ryan buy the cows and the building site while his parents run the land. The day-to-day operations wouldn't change for now.
Further into the future, Ryan would like to be up to 150 cows and foresees needing to add a few employees. Until that time, he and his parents are going to enjoy dairying in their new setup.
"It's been a nice change," Ryan said.
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