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

Biding his time

Deutmeyer installs swing 10 milking parlor
This is the view from the holding pen of the Deutmeyer’s new TRANS Iowa swing-10 milking parlor. Mike Deutmeyer likes the simple design and clean look of the parlor. (photo by Heidi deGier)
This is the view from the holding pen of the Deutmeyer’s new TRANS Iowa swing-10 milking parlor. Mike Deutmeyer likes the simple design and clean look of the parlor. (photo by Heidi deGier)

By Heidi deGier- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

LUXEMBURG, Iowa - It was about 18 degrees in the old barn on a cold day in the winter of 2008 and Mike Deutmeyer was milking 50 cows in 17 stanchions and switching them two and a half times to get them milked.

Deutmeyer said he was thinking there had to be a better and more efficient way to milk cows, especially with the bad winter.

Today Deutmeyer milks in a swing-10 parlor on his dairy located a few miles northeast of the small Iowa town of Luxemburg. Now it takes him the same amount of time, an hour and 45 minutes, to milk 92 cows as it used to take to milk 50.

"It doesn't take anymore time and I'm not nearly as wore out when I'm done," he said.

Deutmeyer and his wife, Julie, operate Brickhouse Holsteins. The couple has two young sons, Will and Ian. Mike and Julie own the cows, the dairy-related buildings and their own line of machinery on the farm of Mike's parents, Richard and Helen Deutmeyer.

The old milking system did allow Deutmeyer a start in the dairy business.

"I got a majority of my cows paid for at that point and a lot of my equipment paid for," he said.

Deutmeyer is very happy with his new parlor, known as a TRANS Iowa parlor.

"It's very simple and has very clean lines, there are not a lot of posts in the concrete and it's not an overcomplicated thing to look at," Deutmeyer said. "It was something that I could build myself."

Construction for the project started about June 1, 2008 and was done around mid-October. The project began with concrete work on the manure pit, an addition to the freestall barn including a center alley to the outside wall and another addition to the barn before beginning work on the milk house, utility room and feed room and then the parlor.

Before building his new parlor, Deutmeyer went on many of the parlor tours the last few years sponsored by Iowa State University Extension. He also visited other farms on his own.

Deutmeyer said he used a design that ISU Dairy Field Specialist Larry Tranel had come up with. If Deutmeyer had a question, he would call Tranel for advice.

"I used all his information that he came up with and has modified over time," Deutmeyer said. "Every now and then a question would come up and I'd be on the phone; he'd make a few phone calls if he had to or do what he needed to do to answer my question. He answered a lot of questions that I had and put me in touch with other people that I could go to that didn't have a tour."

"The nice thing was that he (Tranel) was out promoting the fact that you could do this on a limited budget," Deutmeyer continued. "I have things in my parlor that you definitely don't need like automatic takeoffs and a clean-in-place system. I have a few extras in there but you can really get by with used steel and none of the bells and whistles. He's out there giving you all the options."

Deutmeyer liked the simple design and the cleanliness of the TRANS Iowa parlor.

"If something goes wrong, I want to be able to fix it myself and I want to fix it pretty quick," he said.

Deutmeyer was able to make use of his old equipment, including some of the pipeline, the plate cooler and a lot of milker parts. Deutmeyer bought more used milking units as he didn't have enough from the old milking system. Some equipment was worn out so he bought a new vacuum pump and a larger used bulk tank.

Some of the benefits Deutmeyer has seen with the new parlor include easier handling of the cows, not having to bend over all the time, easier prepping of the cows and an improvement in overall cow health.

"In the old barn, chasing cows in and out all the time, I was always ducking around and in between stanchions, I'd constantly be hitting my head and be trying to squeeze through something and get my coat caught," Deutmeyer said. "It used to take me sometimes half an hour to get a heifer into the barn and calmed down and now they pretty much run in and stand there between two cows that are used to it. That's really nice."

Deutmeyer enjoys working with cows that are cleaner and drier. In the old barn cows would be outside in the rain and snow and come in dripping wet. He likes being able to work at eye level in prepping cows and is able to get them dryer and cleaner and have better teat dip coverage. He is seeing a slow but consistent increase in milk production.

"The overall health of the cow is a lot better," Deutmeyer said. "They used to eat after milking for two hours and then they'd all come in and lie down. Now they get done milking, they go eat a little bit and by the time I'm done milking, a lot of them are lying down and they just keep rotating through. That's better for digestion and rumen health."

The cows have to go outside to eat but then have access to 85 stalls in the freestall barn. The feeding area is well-protected. Deutmeyer feeds a total mixed ration made up of corn silage, haylage, corn and a protein blend.

Deutmeyer put in a transition cow area in the freestall barn that holds 10 cows, the number that fits the parlor.

"There's no competition in there for the fresh cows and heifers, they have plenty of access to bunk space and they have their own freestall," he said. "This is probably one of the better things I did as far as the barn goes is having a fresh cow pen."

Deutmeyer is a strong believer in cow comfort. He likes to get his cows bred back as soon as possible and wants to keep butterfat at 3.8 percent.

The Deutmeyers put an office right off the milk house that has a five-foot by six-foot window that overlooks the freestall barn.

"One of my overall goals was to have an office at the farm so that I could do my office work here and not have my papers and stuff spread out all over at home," Deutmeyer said. "That way, farm time is farm time and home time is home time. Having it overlook the cows in the freestall barn is just excellent, because I can check for heats or peak out and see what's going on."

The Deutmeyers live off the farm in Luxemburg.

Another of Deutmeyer's goals is to become more efficient and milk by himself. He currently employs Jason (Taz) Lehman, a senior at Beckman High School in Dyersville.

"When we started in the parlor, he helped all the time," Deutmeyer said. "It was a necessity because the cows weren't going in right so it took two people. After the original cows got used to it, I purchased more cows. A lot of them calved in over the winter. I think we had 50 or 60 cows and heifers calve in. So, with all of that going on, I definitely needed more help. Since the rush of cows has calved in, now I'm getting back to more of a normal flow, it's taking a lot less time to do."

For the past couple of months, Deutmeyer has milked in the morning by himself and Lehman has helped with the evening milking.

Deutmeyer said that Lehman has another job lined up and that he will be helping occasionally with the milking. Lehman will be attending Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar for Dairy Science.

"I'm happy that Mike was able to come up with something efficient, so that he can get home at a decent hour and still have family time," Julie said.

In the future, the Deutmeyers would like to purchase the 265-acre farm from Mike's parents. They may also start to register some of their Holstein cattle.

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