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|Dairyman turns consultant|
|Features - Consultants|
With nearly seven generations of dairy experience behind them, Wim and Nicolien Hammink decided to bring their 300-cow operation to Brookings, South Dakota, in 1995 because of the ample crop feed supply and relatively low utility costs found in the state.Since then, they gradually expanded to 1,000 cows and recently opened a new 1,400-cow facility.
While the Hamminks were confident their dairy would thrive in their new location, they weren’t prepared for establishing a second business designed to offer design and development assistance to other South Dakota dairies.
Wim says South Dakota dairy officials approached him in 2000 about helping to promote dairy growth in their state in order to prevent the industry from declining there.
“They wanted me to help other dairy producers and those interested in establishing a dairy see what could be done with a new dairy in South Dakota,” Wim says. “I was surprised at how many people were interested in a new or expanded dairy here.”
Initially, Wim worked with individuals and groups seeking details about site location and characteristics, contractors, facility design, etc. As interest and demands on his time grew, he realized he needed to create Hammink Dairy Consulting and Development in order to offer the types of services that people were requesting.
“Starting a new dairy is a lot of work,” Wim says. “We’ve developed a system that has worked well for the dairies we’ve helped design. During that process, we’ve determined that locating a site with some rolling landscape works very well. One of the most important features of a new dairy is a simple manure management system. You want to design it so that it requires the least amount of work because that saves energy and time.”
On a site with rolling hills, lagoons can be located at a level that allows gravity to assist with manure management. In addition to reducing the cost of equipment and energy, use of gravity to transfer waste to the lagoon also reduces the need for pumps, which in turn minimizes maintenance and troubleshooting activities.
“Some dairies have been designed to use too many pumps. When a lagoon pump is down, it can cause a lot of problems on a dairy,” Wim says. “By reducing the number of pumps you need, you also limit the amount of problems you’ll have with them in the future. You don’t need as much dirt work to prepare a site, either. So putting a dairy on a site that facilitates earthen storage is very important. It’s economical in several ways.”
In choosing a dairy site, Wim also recommends that developers consider how far the site is from a milk plant. By utilizing a site as close as possible to the plant, producers realize additional cost savings.
When it comes to barns, Wim has found that cross-ventilated barns seem to function best in South Dakota’s climate. With frigid winter temperatures and soaring summer heat, barns need to offer cows winter warmth and cool summertime breezes.
“Cross-ventilated barns work very well here to control both winter and summertime temperatures,” Wim says. “This type of barn works best for larger dairies, and they are quite economical. We have about eight that we oversaw, and they’re working well for producers. Especially in winter, our barns offer cows a warm environment.”
Sidewalls aren’t part of a dairy barn design in many states, but South Dakota’s cold winters require more protection. The state’s cold temperatures are more of a concern than the summer heat.
“We don’t see the same heat stress in our dairies here that other states do,” Wim says. “Because of the winters, we have to insulate our barns. That’s one big difference from barns in other states.”
Assisting producers with dairy expansion is often more complex than developing a new dairy. Designing expansion to work with the site and tying a new facility into an existing one requires detail and precision.
“We’ve designed several freestall facilities and added cross-ventilation to some existing barns,” Wim says. “It takes a lot of measuring and planning to make it fit together well.”
With stressed dairy markets, Wim has seen dairy expansion slow down in South Dakota. Interest hasn’t waned, but developers are waiting to see what markets do before they move ahead with expansion activities. He expects to see more expansion as markets gain strength. Because he isn’t aware of other dairy producers who offer this type of service, he believes he’ll continue to be involved in assisting with development and design of new dairies in his state.
“Because we know dairy from the inside out, we’re able to help producers design an efficient dairy that operates with the least amount of problems,” Wim says. “If someone asks us to review a design they’ve developed, we’re able to offer ideas from what we know about a dairy operation. One thing we often see is that dairy producers miss some aspect of the dairy when they expand. They add more cows but don’t expand their special-needs area. Planning ahead for every aspect of the operation is the way to design a successful dairy." PD
Loretta Sorensen is a freelance author from South Dakota.
Visit www.hamminkdairy.com for more information about Hammink and his dairy consulting projects.