September 26, 2022 at 3:15 p.m.
Allan and Ann milk 82 cows and farm 1,000 acres in partnership with Allan’s brother, Donny Middendorf.
A big change on the Middendorf farm came in March when Allan and Ann broke ground on their 70-stall stanchion barn to make way for the future of their farm.
The construction of a swing-10 parlor was done by the Middendorfs with the help of family and friends.
“I watched Larry Tranel, with Iowa State University, YouTube videos for years leading up to construction,” Allan said. “There were really good videos on low-cost parlors, which is where I got most of my ideas from. I kept thinking, ‘I could do that.’”
The Middendorfs also visited a farmer who had a parlor similar to what they planned to build.
The Middendorfs did not want to finance a new building to house a parlor, so they did the majority of the construction themselves to retrofit the parlor into their existing barn.
“We knew times were changing and eventually the creamery wouldn’t take our milk if we had a stanchion barn, so something had to give,” Allan said.
“Our milkers were getting old, and milking was taking too long,” she said. “We were switching half of the barn.”
Once the idea was in place then came the labor.
“We started digging up the east end of the barn in March and digging the hole for the pit,” Allan said. “I think we maybe dug 6 inches too deep, but for doing it ourselves, I think it turned out really well.”
Because they had to take stabilizing posts out of the barn to make room for the parlor, they put an I-beam along the ceiling to support the structure of the barn. The return lane for the parlor replaced the south manger, and the alley down the middle of the barn is the crowd room.
After the cement was poured, the frame of the parlor was welded by the Middendorfs. Allan said there were times throughout the process that the family confided in professionals for guidance but were determined to finish the job themselves.
“I guess we’ll find out how good of a welder I am,” Allan said.
By May, the Middendorfs were milking cows in the parlor.
“We milked our herd in those remaining 28 stalls for the two months of construction, which is probably why it took us so long to complete,” Allan said.
The Middendorfs would like to install a palpation rail in the remaining stalls, but for now, they are working on finishing the parlor.
Allan said they will put stairs in the parlor and a butt pan to keep the parlor cleaner. They would like to get a quick release gate in the entrance and exit of the parlor and a crowd gate to help bring cows in.
“You didn’t want to be the person in the parlor the first four days; the cows made a mess everywhere,” Ann said.
“I’m lucky I was pushing cows into the parlor,” he said.
They both agreed that teaching fresh heifers is not as difficult with the parlor. Their older cows also transitioned into the parlor within the first week or so.
Now, after adjusting to the parlor, the couple would not think of going back to milking the way they had for so many years.
“I’m not one that likes change,” Ann said. “But, I adjusted to this very quickly.”
Allan and Ann have been milking together for 30 years and stressed the changes they have seen in their health after switching from stanchions to milking in a parlor.
“I get done milking, and I’m not exhausted,” Ann said.
“My knees and back don’t ache like they used to,” he said. “I also like that we can have more cows and not have to switch them in and out of the barn.”
While their health is improved, their milking time has been cut in half. Allan said milking in the stanchion barn took three hours, which meant later nights and a shorter timeframe between milking to accomplish tasks like fieldwork. By putting in a parlor, they cut their milking time down to one hour and 20 minutes.
“We are getting extra time during the day to do things, and the cows aren’t waiting to be milked for three hours,” Allan said. “This has been life changing.”
The Middendorfs are excited about the opportunities their parlor has opened for them and look forward to what it will do for the future of their farm.
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