September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
"The old barn was in bad shape," LeRoy said. "The stalls were rough, the rubber mats were deteriorated, the alleys weren't wide enough for the feed cart and shingles were coming off the roof."
On Oct. 13, LeRoy and Vernon Mickelson moved their 40 head of milking cows into their new 60-stall tiestall barn with automatic takeoffs on their Pope County farm near Cyrus, Minn.
"It's good that it's done," LeRoy said. "It has been a stressful summer."
Prior to the new barn, the Mickelsons were milking in a 42-stall three-row tiestall barn on the farm that has been in their family since 1874.
In the old barn, handling manure was no easy task.
"We had to pitch one gutter by hand everyday for 30 years," LeRoy said.
"We couldn't make the barn cleaner work in a three-row barn," Vernon said.
Five years ago, LeRoy and Vernon had built a new calf barn. That was when the idea sprung for a new barn for the milking herd.
"We started thinking about it," Vernon said. "But we put it off with the milk prices being where they were."
Although they decided to wait, Vernon and LeRoy continued to think about what kind of barn they wanted to build and settled on another tiestall barn.
"It's what we were used to. The cows are used to it too," LeRoy said. "Besides, the loafing barn we put up 10 years ago for the cows wasn't set up for a freestall. We didn't want to destroy that."
"It will be warmer in there than what a freestall barn would be," Vernon said.
The Mickelson brothers spent time helping design their new barn and finally, started construction this past June on the front 30 stalls.
"We continued to milk in the old barn until they finished the front part of the new barn," LeRoy said.
By Aug. 12, they started tearing down the original barn and milked in the 30 stalls that were finished.
"We were milking 50 cows at that time," Vernon said. "We were switching cows in and out until October."
Besides switching cows, the Mickelsons had to pitch the gutters in the new part of the barn as well.
"It was the best day of our lives when we got the barn cleaner going in the new barn," LeRoy said.
The new barn provided numerous other benefits for LeRoy and Vernon such as a wider feed alley for the feed cart as well as improvements in cow comfort with tunnel ventilation and brand new rubber mats.
"They are getting up and down much easier with these mats," Vernon said. "The cows like to go in them now. We want herd health to improve. We hope it will improve with this facility."
"Cow comfort and labor were a big focus when we were designing the barn," LeRoy said.
With the barn finished, the Mickelsons have plastic waterlines, a larger milkhouse and a utility room.
"We didn't have a utility room before," LeRoy said. "It is a really good deal. We have space to store things that we didn't have in the old barn."
Along with a new barn, the Mickelson brothers have brought in new milking units with automatic takeoffs.
"That is what I was most excited about," Vernon said. "Now we don't have to bend over as much when we milk."
"Either one of us could milk and the cows would all be milked out the same," LeRoy said. "These units are better units."
The best part of the new facility for LeRoy and Vernon has been the decrease in labor.
"Workwise, it is less labor intensive," LeRoy said.
With the desire to make their farm as labor efficient as they can, the Mickelson brothers have been looking at installing a TMR down the road.
"We don't have one right now," LeRoy said. "It would be nicer than doing so much by hand."
With everything done and a month under their belt, the Mickelson brothers are happy with their decision to build a new tiestall barn.
"It's been great," Vernon said.
"We want to stay in dairy farming longer," LeRoy said. "We are shooting for another 20 years. We want to keep going."