September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Eight years after facility upgrade, Fischer offers advice
A much needed update
As his equipment, facilities and body were wearing out with years of use, Bruce Fischer - a dairy producer near Kimball, Minn. - decided the time had come to update his dairy facility. With options of either building completely new or using what he already had, Fischer opted to retrofit a 153-stall freestall barn with a 12-stall step-up parlor into his 63-cow stanchion barn with a 60-foot holding shed. After a less-than-pleasant year spent converting the old barn into a new facility and training his 180-cow milking herd to adapt to the parlor, Fischer said the improved milking conditions and cow comfort were worth the struggles.
"We can handle the operation with three people and a relief milker that comes in once in a while. It is much easier," Fischer said in March of 2002. "The old stanchions were uncomfortable with all the getting up and down and being hot in the summer. Here they have room to roam. It is much better."
The good and the bad
After operating in his new facility for eights years now, Fischer has reaped the benefits, but has also seen the downfalls in his planning.
"If I were to do it (update my facilities) again, I would avoid a step-up parlor," Fischer said. "It was the cheap way out at the time. The parlor gets the job done, but [if I could do it over again] I would spend the money on a fancier parlor."
Fischer said at the time of the renovation, more attention and detail were put into the freestall facility, with only a passing glance for the parlor.
"We cut some corners on the parlor," Fischer said. "There is a lot more upkeep and adjustments [needed for this system] then for a normal parlor."
On the up side, the freestall facility is working beautifully. The overall improved cow comfort has continuously given back to Fischer, through improved herd health as well as increased production.
"The freestall facility is good. I'm getting way more milk production [out of my cows] now. Over the last eight years, I have gone from a rolling herd average of 19,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds," Fischer said. "Cow comfort is a big thing. I believe you can get 10 pounds more out of a cow just by improving cow comfort."
Overall, Fischer has seen many benefits from his decision to retrofit eight years ago, the main one being lack of daily maintenance.
"In the old barn, everything was broken every day," he said. "[By retrofitting] I have eliminated most of this."
To other producers facing the same situation he had eight years ago, Fischer said he would recommend doing what he did, with the exception of possibly putting in a better parlor. Expanding his herd size to 216 has also worked well for Fischer.
"I wanted to get bigger so I could hire help to get chores done, but I wasn't ready to manage a big workforce," Fischer said. "It also gives me more time off, and I still have an updated facility without the high debt-load."
Fisher currently employees one full-time herdsman and one full-time general employee - former dairy farmer Dave Waltzing, who recently came home from serving in Iraq.
"I have two great employees along with several nephews and neighbors who help out when needed," Fischer said.
Looking into the future, retirement is in sight.
"This is my way of sneaking out of the dairy industry," he said. "I am a 55-year-old dairy farmer who has tried to pass on the farm to someone in the past, but it never worked out. I now have a five-year plan with my herdsman, who wants to get into dairying on his own. This is plan 'C'. When I'm 60, I will be half-way out of the dairy; when I'm 65, I will just be here to help if needed."
Fischer did say, though, that he will continue to grow crops on his land, enough to furnish feed for the farm.[[In-content Ad]]