Dairy Star

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kolb family enjoys new, renovated facilities
Open house to showcase innovative

Jennifer Burggraff
Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Kolbs milk their 300-cow dairy herd twice a day in a double-eight parallel parlor. While the parlor itself was part of the original farm, which the Kolbs purchased in 2003, they have since updated the milking equipment. (photo by Jennifer Burggraff)
While one-half of the original freestall barn on the Kolbsí farm received new stalls and mattresses, another area is currently being renovated into a bedded pack pen which will house fresh cows and hospital cows. (photo by Jennifer Burggraff)
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. - In 2004, the Kolb Farms Partnership was formed with growth in mind. Over the last five years, growth has taken place within the family-run dairy. This growth pushed the Kolbs to renovate their existing freestall facility and add a new tunnel ventilated freestall barn on the Paynesville, Minn., farm. With the new facility completed in late June 2009 and the renovation of the old barn underway, the Kolbs are planning an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 2 to showcase their latest expansion. The event is open to the public.

Kolb Farms Partnership is a collaboration between Theresa Kolb and four of her five sons: Mike (40), Alan (37), Dave (35) and Leon (30) Kolb. The Kolbs purchased the Paynesville area dairy farm - with its existing double-eight parallel parlor and freestall barn - in 2003 as a location to house and milk their 200-cow dairy herd. However, over the last couple years, their herd outgrew the existing facilities through internal growth alone.

"We needed more room [for the cows]," Alan Kolb said of why they decided to build.

Not only did they need more room for the herd, Theresa Kolb said, but the stalls in the old freestall barn were too small for the cows. With these factors in mind, the Kolbs spent sufficient time researching and visiting other dairy operations before making plans for their own facilities.

"We looked at several different facilities," Dave Kolb said. "We looked at what environments we liked and what features [each facility had]."

Deciding on a bedding type was just one of the factors the family looked into.

"[My sons] didn't want anything to do with sand," Theresa said, despite the cow comfort benefits of sand bedding.

After much research the Kolbs chose to use recycled manure solids as bedding.

"It's recycling something we already have, so we don't have to buy [replacement bedding]," Theresa said. "The cows really like it."

For the facility itself, the Kolbs decided on a four-row tunnel ventilated freestall barn.

Demolition and groundwork for the new facility began last August. The building site was ready in December and actual construction began Feb. 1, 2009. Cows were moved into the new barn during the last week of June.

Twenty-six 54-inch fans line one end of the 103- by 315-foot building. The fans - as well as high-pressure misters - run on a computerized system, operating as needed depending on temperature and humidity. Between the approximately 12 mile per hour wind that runs through the barn when all 26 fans are on and the misting system, the barn is typically five to seven degrees cooler than the outside temperatures on hot summer days, Mike Kolb said. Four baffles run the width of the barn to keep the airflow at the cows' level.

"Essentially, [the baffles] make the building 10 feet tall," Dave said of how the baffles work.

The 232 stalls within the new facility were designed to be deep-bedded. Nearly one foot of manure solids top the stalls, creating a soft cushion for the cows to lay on. Stalls are maintained - leveled and fluffed - every day, with more manure solids added every other day.

The aisles within the new facility are scraped into a 3- by 3-foot cross alley with a skidloader twice each day. From there, the manure is scraped into a 19,999-gallon underground reception pit. The waste is agitated and pumped by a syringe pump to a solids separator. While the liquid flows to a reception tank before flowing to a lagoon, the solids drop onto a pile. At 40 to 50 percent the original moisture, the solids are ready to use as soon as they come out of the separator, and dry more after being spread into the stalls, Mike said.

Another feature unique to the Kolb facility is the lighting. Because many of the facilities they toured before building did not have much natural lighting, the Kolbs had two feet of polycarbonate - a nearly unbreakable plastic used to make eyeglasses - put in along the sides of their barn.

"[With the polycarbonate] we need very little supplemental lighting during the day," Mike said. "I believe [the natural lighting] is better for the cows and it saves us money."

A breezeway running along the length of the new barn connects the new to the old barn and leads to the parlor. Within the old barn, the renovations include the addition of the breezeway and replacement of one-half the freestalls with new stalls and mattresses. Although these stalls are still being bedded with chopped straw, the Kolbs have plans to eventually switch to 100 percent manure solids bedding. Another area of the barn is currently being converted to a bedded pack pen for fresh and hospital cows.

The Kolbs now have room for 450 cows. Currently, they are milking 300 twice a day and farming 1,500 acres of corn, alfalfa and soybeans with help from five full time employees: three milkers, one general farmhand and Theresa's youngest son, Jason (23), who is in charge of the shop and mechanic work and is not yet part of the partnership.

While Theresa and her sons said they help with all aspects of the farm with the crops, each does have specific roles within the partnership. Theresa does the computer work and is the general bookkeeper. She also manages herd health and breeding along with Alan. Mike, who lives on the farm, does all the TMR feeding for the cows and heifers, manages the herd nutrition and commodities, does the maintenance within the parlor and payroll. Dave manages the crop/agronomy end of the farm, along with pest and weed management. Leon and his wife, Kim, are responsible for the pre-fresh cows and the calves at one of the other three locations owned by the Kolbs.

Since moving the herd into the new facility, the Kolbs agreed the greatest benefit has been increased cow comfort and cleanliness. These results have led to increased production per cow by three to five pounds, decreased clinical mastitis and, there-for, increased overall herd health.

"[We like] everything but the price tag," Dave said about the new facility, laughing.

Looking to the future, Theresa said for now they will concentrate on filling the barns. They will also continue to learn about their new facilities, as tunnel ventilation and manure solids as bedding are relatively new technologies within the dairy industry.

"We are learning as we go," Dave said.

Right now, however, the Kolbs couldn't be happier with their decision to build.

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