David Styer speaks to tour attendees during a PDPW Wisconsin Dairy Tour event July 17 at the family’s dairy near Menomonie, Wis. The Styers built a 60-stall rotary parlor in 2014 and expanded their herd to 2,000 cows.
PHOTO BY CASSIE OLSON
David Styer speaks to tour attendees during a PDPW Wisconsin Dairy Tour event July 17 at the family’s dairy near Menomonie, Wis. The Styers built a 60-stall rotary parlor in 2014 and expanded their herd to 2,000 cows. PHOTO BY CASSIE OLSON
    MENOMONIE, Wis. – Improved efficiency and lower cost of production were the topics of conversation for Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) members as they gathered July 17 at Alfalawn Farm near Menomonie, Wis.
    Owned by brothers Dale, David and Randy Styer, Alfalawn Farm is a fourth-generation dairy farm, milking 2,000 cows in a 60-stall rotary parlor built in 2014. As a part of PDPW’s Wisconsin Dairy Tour event, David Styer met with PDPW members to showcase his family’s farm, share their keys to success and vision for the future.
    When the Styers made the decision to expand to 2,000 cows in 2014, they also made the decision to build a 60-stall rotary parlor. While the cost of building was still a factor, David said it has lowered production costs.
    “We have seen a $2 per hundredweight drop in labor costs with the rotary,” David said.
    Three employees are present in each of the three, six-hour milking shifts. Offering a positive experience for their employees have led the Styers to have a waiting list to join the Alfalawn team.
    “We have a waiting list for employees,” David said. “We always stay personable with them and others learn about our farm through word of mouth. We recognize that family is important to our employees, and we treat them as though they are a part of our own.”
    The Styers added a Teatwand, a robotic arm to automatically post-dip the cows before exiting the rotary. The arm extends between the rear legs of each cow, dispersing an even coat of post dip. David said the uniformity of the spray has improved udder health.
    “When our employees were post dipping, we thought they were doing a good job; once we took photos of post dips, however, we found they weren’t very uniform,” David said. “We might go through more solution than we used to, but udder health is not a concern in our herd.
    David said the transition to the rotary parlor was a smooth experience.
    “We have reduced the milking time on the cows and made for much more consistent milkings,” David said. “The cows love the rotary.”
    When the Styers expanded, they also built a 1,600-cow, cross-ventilated free-stall barn. With a low ceiling and no baffles, David said many were concerned with how the barn would handle in the winter.
    “There was a lot of worry that snow would build up on the roof during the winter,” David said. “We’ve actually noticed that snow blows off the roof and doesn’t build up over time like it used to.”
    Cows are separated into four large, end-load pens. Two-year-olds are separated into one pen and the other three are mixed age and lactation. David said the large groups are helpful when running through the parlor.
    The cross-vented side curtains and an open ridge roof provide proper airflow and consistent temperatures throughout the barn. Sprinklers located along headlocks activate when temperatures exceed 74 degrees.
    “In the winter, the bottom row of fans are shut off and the curtains close, keeping the barn at 30 degrees,” David said.
    Finally, cows are bedded on reclaimed sand. The Styers began reclaiming sand in 2015.     
    Automatic scrapers in each of the barn’s four pens scrape manure into an underground channel with a flush-flume settling system. The manure gravity flows to a sand room downhill from the barn where sand is separated from liquids and manure solids.
    “The sand runs through a shaker,” David said. “What doesn’t goes through what we call the lazy river and is run through slope screens to remove solids from the flume water.”
    The remaining manure solids are pumped into a 48-million-gallon manure pit. The flume water is recycled to clean alleyways within the barn. David takes pride in the conservation efforts the farm takes in regard to water.
    “The average cow will utilize 40 gallons of water per day,” David said. “Every gallon of water on our farm is recycled three to six times over; it’s a good story to tell others from our conservation standpoint.”
    All of the advancements made in recent years at Alfalawn Farm are done with profitability and the future in mind. With three families involved, David said the future looks bright.
    “Dale and I each have four kids; Randy has three kids,” David said. “There are 14 family members actively involved on the dairy. We have a lot of family coming up; we’re proud to offer them something to come into.”