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Kinnard Farms’ new facility keeps it all ‘under one roof’

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 06 November 2015
New facility

A family that began farming with 14 cows in 1947 will soon be milking 7,000 in a brand-new rotary milking parlor and cutting-edge cross-ventilated barn. 

Neatly tucked in the gently rolling topography of northeast Wisconsin, the impressive facility at Kinnard Farms Inc. catches the eye. The enclosed barn stretches one-third of a mile from one end to the other, and it connects to a 100-stall rotary parlor. Every function of the cow’s adult life happens within these walls, from calving to lactating to dry-off.

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“I like the idea of having all management under one roof,” Lee Kinnard says.

Cross-ventilation

Along with his siblings, Rod Kinnard and Jackie (Stewart) Kinnard, the family spent several years designing a dairy facility that would maximize efficiency and output while emphasizing quality of life for both the cows and the people working on the dairy. They determined that a cross-ventilated barn would help them achieve those goals.

While they had been pleased with natural ventilation at their existing facility, they saw the opportunity to improve heat abatement and reduce water usage with the new design.

More than 300 52-inch fans line one 1,750-foot side of the cross-ventilated barn, which operates in conjunction with a cooling wall spanning the length of the opposite side. Recycled water is pumped up to the top of this 14-foot-high wall and dispersed through manifolds made from resin-coated recycled cardboard.  

Kinnard family

During warm weather, the fans, which provide a 7 mph wind throughout the entire barn, essentially pull warm external air through the 50ºF water in the wall to create an evaporative effect.

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“We are turning that 90-degree day into a 70-degree day in the barn,” Lee states. A couple of warm weeks in early September demonstrated the system’s effectiveness. “There was no hot weather behavior in here. Cows were laying down, not bunching,” he adds.

By keeping a consistently cooler temperature throughout the barn, there is no need for sprinklers, which keeps excess water out of the manure pit and promotes milk quality by supporting a drier environment. Further, cows benefit from constant cooling, no matter if they are at the bunk or in a stall.

As winter sets in, they plan to throttle down the wind speed and drain the water from the cooling wall. A short curtain running along the very top of the cooling wall can be opened to promote air exchange. During the most bitter, below-zero days, Lee hopes to hold a 40ºF temperature difference between inside the barn and outside.

In fact, he is optimistic that this will reduce the need for additional dry matter in the ration down to a half-pound, compared to the 1-pound increase required to keep production up during cold weather in their naturally ventilated barns.

Rotary milking parlor

As the siblings studied barn design, they also evaluated milking parlor options, wavering between the familiar parallel style of their existing dairy and the opportunity to gain efficiency in a rotary.

“The first time I saw one that worked really well, I knew it was the way to go,” Rod states.

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Observing other dairies with rotaries helped the Kinnards prioritize their needs. One challenge they saw on other farms was cows not being on the rotary long enough for a complete milkout.

They remedied this for their high-producing herd by adding stalls to increase the duration of the ride. They also decided to have two milkers prepping each cow with a teat scrubbing unit, one cleaning the front teats and the other cleaning the rear teats.

So far, so good. With around 3,750 cows, the rotary is moving through 625 cows per hour, but Lee believes they can “push the envelope” to 700 cows per hour at full capacity of 7,000.

“As you watch cows go through, it looks so calm and cool, but it is really immensely fast,” Rod adds. It takes just 31 minutes for a group of 450 cows to leave their pen, be milked and return.  

Rotary

Holding area

Keeping the parlor running efficiently means that the entire holding area is moving all of the time, Rod adds. That meant finding a way to eliminate downtime for manure handling. The solution was a slatted floor system with a 2-foot-deep pit underneath the slats that is flushed on a rotating basis using recycled water off of the sand separation system.

A specially designed rubber mat lays over the slats to relieve hoof stress while cows are standing. To minimize heat stress, this portion of the facility uses high-velocity tunnel ventilation and a water wall.

Though these features increased the cost of the project, Lee sees the long-term value in building this area for non-stop use. “It is worth every penny,” he says. 

Special-needs area

Healthy, productive cows have always been important to the Kinnards, which is why they wanted their new barn to ease the transition of fresh cows into the milking string. This prompted them to include what Lee calls the “intensive care unit” at one end of the barn.

With 14 individual pens for just-in-time calving, a sand-bedded sick pen and built-in float tank, attention and rehabilitation can be given to any cow that needs it. Newborn calves warm up in a straw-bedded, heated calf room, and an office complex with supplies is centrally located for worker convenience.

A series of drover’s lanes allows for easy movement from one end of the barn to the other. Like a 12-foot-wide highway, these lanes connect to all pen groups and run the length of the barn.  

1815pd coffeen fans

Cow comfort

The Kinnards followed the Dairyland Initiative’s stall design recommendations, allowing just a hair more to accommodate their large-framed Holsteins. They also included headlocks and stalls in the 450-cow group pens at a ratio of 1.5 to 1, which Lee says makes life easier for cows and employees.

When it came to choosing bedding for the new barn, sand was a non-negotiable. “It has been absolutely crucial to keeping cows around,” Lee says, crediting the use of sand at their former facility for a low cull rate that allowed them to grow the herd from within over the years and market additional registered Holstein genetics.

Through some creative engineering, a relatively simple system was created to flume the entire dairy with recycled water, taking advantage of gravity and the 23-foot drop from one end of the site to the other. Sand is washed with parlor water from a separate tank system in the manure building. The goal is to eventually be using recycled sand for bedding exclusively.

Observation room

Sharing their passion for dairying with the community is part of the business plan at Kinnard Farms. Jackie, who handles the farm’s marketing and public relations, led the effort to include an observation room overlooking the rotary.

“I love being able to walk up here and see the cows go around,” she notes. “I love being able to share that view with the outside world.”

Her brothers couldn’t agree more.

“It’s a beauty,” Rod says of the facility. “We are pretty proud of it.”  PD

PHOTO 1: The Kinnards began planning for a new facility several years ago as they realized growth was limited at their original site. The family dairy began nearly 70 years ago, in the white barns seen just behind the cross-ventilated barn.

PHOTO 2: Earlier this fall, the Kinnard family of Casco, Wisconsin, moved into their new facility, built to accommodate 7,000 cows at full capacity. The dairy is owned by siblings Lee, Rod and Jackie. Pictured from left to right: Jackie (Kinnard) and David Stewart; Lee; and Maureen and Rod Kinnard. Photo provided by Kinnard Farms Inc.

PHOTO 3: The observation room gives visitors a birds-eye view of the milking process as cows quietly enter and exit the 100-stall rotary parlor. Lee believes at maximum efficiency, the parlor will be able to milk 700 cows per hour. 

PHOTO 4: It takes around 300 52-inch fans to pull air across the 1,750-foot-long cross-ventilated barn to maintain a consistently cool and comfortable environment for cows. Photos by Patrick Flood.

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