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

Pennsylvania dairy transitions to sand bedding/separation

The Burkholders’ sand separator has been in use since mid-March. Clint feels that it’s doing a good job of reclaiming sand from the barns.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RUTH KLOSSNER
The Burkholders’ sand separator has been in use since mid-March. Clint feels that it’s doing a good job of reclaiming sand from the barns.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RUTH KLOSSNER

By by Ruth Klossner- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Chambersburg, Penn.-Transition is the key word at Burk-Lea Farms-transition within the family, transition in how things are done.
The 750-cow dairy operated by Stanley and Janice Burkholder and Clinton and Kara Burkholder in Franklin County was one of four farm visits on Minnesota Milk Producers' Pennsylvania Dairy Tour April 3-7. The Burkholders are second and third generation dairy farmers on the farm that was purchased by Stan's parents, J. Wilbur and Pauline Burkholder, in 1961. Originally 100 acres, the farm now has 1,250 acres of cropland-600 owned and the remainder rented. The operation transitioned fully to Stanley in 1986. In May 2007, a Joint Venture began between Stan and Janice and Clint and Kara.
In December 2012, Clint and Kara purchased the home farm of 100 acres. The farm continues to be operated as a Joint Venture, with the cattle owned 50/50 between Stan and Clint. With Clint getting a five percent increase in the venture each year, Stan commented, "By the time I'm 70, I will not own any cattle."
The arrangement is not a partnership; Stan and Clinton maintain separate checkbooks. They rent equipment from each other.
Various improvements have been made over the years, with an expansion project in 1994 and another freestall barn in the fall of 2008.
The latest transition is to sand bedding and sand separation. Manure from the parlor and two freestall barns is cleaned by flushing water down the alleyways. The sand is mechanically separated and the liquid manure is then pumped across a manure solids separator. The liquid is gravity fed into a five-million gallon lagoon. It is then distributed onto the fields by a drag hose or recycled to flush the freestall barns.
"We had the flush before; we just needed to add the separator," Clinton noted.
The Burkholders used mattresses on concrete before switching to sand bedding. They tore them out, going down 10 to 12 inches to provide a deep sand bed over a clay base.
Barns are flushed three times a day, at each milking. Stalls are bedded twice a week and groomed twice a week.
The Burkholders told the Minnesota group that it's taken them two years to get to where they are, as far as sand use and separation. They studied sand-bedded barns in various locations before installing the sand separator. The separator has been running since March 13. Clint believes that it should save 90 to 95 percent of the sand and that it is reclaiming the majority of the sand. The sand is staged, being moved five times. When it gets to the front door of the shed, it goes outside.
"We struggle with how much water to dump," Clinton admitted. "We want things as consistent as possible."
The Holstein herd is milked in a double 14 herringbone parlor. Nielson rapid-exit stalls and Westfalia Surge milking equipment is used in the parlor. Dairy Comp 305 software records birth dates, due dates, milk weights, and other information. The herd's DHIA RHA is 26,315 pounds of milk, 1,036 pounds fat, and 825 pounds protein. SCC averages about 175,000.
The milking herd is divided into six groups and housed in two barns, according to age and stage of lactation. The groups are fed according to production and lactation stage.
With access to milk markets in Hagerstown and Baltimore, Maryland, the next transition that the Burkholders are considering is going to direct loading of milk. "It has some possibilities," Clinton said. "We'd save $20,000 a year if we go to direct hauling-our hauler would provide the tanks."
An interesting feature of the free stall barns is that they have 100-foot outdoor extensions to provide extra feeding space.
"We have lock-ups so that takes space," Clinton said. "We can shut (the extensions) off in the winter, but only did it for about two weeks when it was the coldest. The cows like it outside most of the year."
A large power line crosses the farm, right behind the barn. The freestall barns are as close to the power line right-of-way as permitted, with the extended areas under the lines. The Minnesota group was surprised that the Burkholders have had no problems with stray voltage.
While Clint is the cowman, Stanley noted that he's "more on the cropping side."
The farm grows about 900 acres of corn, 200 acres of alfalfa, 100 acres of soybeans, and small grain on 1,250 acres. The crops are fed to the cows and approximately 780 head of young stock. The farm stores about 15,000 tons of corn silage, 1,000 tons of forage sorghum, and 4,000 tons of haylage in bunker silos. High moisture shelled corn is stored in a Harvestore. Whole cottonseed, cornmeal, soybean meal, grass hay, and a protein supplement are purchased. Janice is the commodity buyer.
Corn is planted in 20-inch rows. "We tried 15-inch but couldn't shell it for harvest," Stanley said. "Twenty-inch is better for spraying, too."
With no minimum limits on lot size for home construction, the Burkholders have housing developments all around them.
"The worst critics have been the ex-dairy farmers," Stanley noted. "The manure pit was there ten years before the houses were put there."
In addition to the family members, the farm employs nine full time and three part-time employees.
Clint is a graduate of Penn State University with a BS degree in Ag Systems Management; he and Kara have two children-Andrew, seven, and Emma, five. Kara does payroll and bookkeeping for the farm.[[In-content Ad]]


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