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Wedemeiers convert stanchion barn into parlor, pleased with result

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 12/12/2012 9:05 PM

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MAYNARD, Iowa — Scott and Gary Wedemeier couldn't be more pleased with the new parlor on their Maynard dairy farm.

"Every time I milk it's so relaxing and so comfortable for me and the cows," Scott said. "It's nice to milk."

Building the new parlor caused some trying days. They shared their experiences during an Extension parlor tour in August.

"It took a couple years to get everything done, and it's nice to just farm again," Scott said. "For a while it was construction, farming and more construction work."

"I think for two months straight Scott was working 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week," said Gary, Scott's dad.

Scott started farming with his dad in 2003 after he graduated from Iowa State University where he majored in dairy science and minored in agronomy. They milked in a step-up parlor for 15 years and before that in a 36-cow stanchion barn.

They raise 600 acres of corn, soybeans and hay and rotationally graze their herd on 124 acres. They milk 140 to 175 Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Holstein-Brown Swiss cross cows. Some Brown Swiss and a few Holsteins are registered.

The cows are housed in a free-stall barn. Last year they built a bedded-pack barn and feed lane for heifers, and built the new parlor into the old stanchion barn.

Work on the parlor started in mid-July 2011 and they were milking in it by Sept. 24.

"The first 20 days we were tearing out the old stanchions, and then when we got the concrete poured, we tore out our old step-up parlor," Scott said. "The morning milking was in the step-up parlor and the night milking was in the pit parlor. That was a big work day. It all had to come out because our parlor goes through the old step-up."

The first milking in the new parlor took almost the same amount of time as the old parlor, 4.5 hours.

"We had to coax all the cows in," Gary said. "They didn't want to go in."

It wasn't long, though, and one person was milking 70 to 80 cows per hour.

Scott based the new parlor on the TRANS Iowa Low Cost Parlor design developed by Extension specialist Larry Tranel.

"The measurements were changed to fit our cows," Scott said.

The swing-15 parlor is equipped with Dairymaster Milking Equipment.

Scott did almost al the welding in the parlor and everyone helped when and where they could with construction. They also helped with the concrete and electrical. Lang's Dairy Equipment in Decorah installed the milking equipment.

Scott built the chop gates. The first one took three days to get it to work the way he wanted.

The Wedemeiers said their hired man, Carmen Gonzalez, also helped with the construction.

The Wedemeiers toured parlors with their equipment dealers but never saw one that they felt would really work for their operation until they visited grazier Mark Opitz's milking parlor at Belmond, Wis. Scott said he could finally see what needed to be done and how he could make it fit.

"We based our milking theory off that parlor," Scott said. "Cow flow and get the cows in and get them out, spend the least amount of time that you can and still do a good job."

In building the new parlor, they had three sources of materials —new, used and junk pile.

"Our swing around gates in the parlor, part of them came off an old running gear," Scott said. "We used some of the lights from the old parlor. There is a lot of refurbished steel in the parlor."

Labor efficiency has really improved with the new parlor.

"It's allowed Dad and me to go on trips or go to meetings and seminars, and it won't affect the farm," Scott said. "I figured that if the parlor lasts 25 years it will have saved me 6 1/2 years that I can spend with my family over the life of the parlor versus the way we used to milk."