Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Barns & Equipment

Whether using a tiestall, freestall, dry lot or pasture, here are some tips for cow comfort and maintaining farm facilities and equipment.



Moisture can be a real problem in freestalls bedded with manure solids. It aids the growth of bacteria, which can lead to herd health issues. Raking freestalls bedded with manure solids is a common practice to combat the moisture, but many times it just scratches the surface.

Looking for a better way, dairyman Mark Barroso of Merced, California, designed and built the Freestall Rototiller. Unlike other rototillers, this one runs off the PTO of a small- to mid-sized tractor that can provide 60 to 100 horsepower.

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Engine brakes are rarely seen on tractors, but in certain regions they are really important to truck drivers. If you use them, you might need to schedule maintenance a little sooner than normal, but we will also discuss when you should get regular maintenance on your engine.

Engine brakes
The four strokes of the engine are intake, compression, power and exhaust. Engine brakes work by cutting the fuel at the compression stage and releasing the air that is compressed. This cuts the power and doesn’t waste a lot of unnecessary fuel.

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This article was #5 in PDmag's Top 5 most-well read New Technology articles in 2010.

Summary: This new bale chopper mounts right onto a skid loader for a one-step method to bedding with straw. The idea came to Roy Marschall, owner of Skid-Chopper, LLC, and his son-in-law, Harlan Poppler, who runs a dairy farm in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, area.

The square drum attachment allows the operator to drive into the bale. Once lifted, hydraulic power moves the drum back while gravity pulls the bale over three rows of rotating three-sided blades to chop the straw. The speed of the drum can be altered to change the length of the cut. Two fans are used to blow the straw from the chopper directly into a freestall, bedded pack or collection pile. Fan speed can also be adjusted to control the distance the chopped straw travels.

“It can blow up to 30 feet if you want it to,” Marschall says.

Because this article was so popular, we asked Marschall some follow-up questions:

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Fuel and fuel efficiency are important factors in improving your margin. Storage of that fuel can have a devastating impact on performance and longevity of your engine. Make sure your engine is running as efficiently as possible with turbo chargers. I think every piece of equipment should have a turbo charger on it and be fuel-injected.

Diesel fuel isn’t gas at all, it’s oil. It’s a slow-burning fuel that contains more energy than gasoline does – 147,000 BTUs in diesel compared to 125,000 BTUs in gasoline.Diesel engines must provide higher temperatures to ignite diesel fuel, but the slower burn gives diesel engines more torque and longer power strokes than gas engines.

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There’s a well-known Bob Dylan song that you’ve all probably heard called “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It’s a famous song that has blown right into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and was ranked No. 14 in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

The song asks a series of questions and answers them by simply singing, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”

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In the dairy industry, it’s a commonly held belief that cow comfort contributes to healthier and higher-producing dairy herds. One additional way to increase cow comfort is to manage and control ectoparasites like mange and lice. Comfortable cows simply produce more milk.

Dr. Brian Miller, professional service veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., says an annual whole-herd parasite control program is the best way to keep irritating and painful mange at bay.

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