Agri News, MN 03-27-07 Tranel is busy transforming Midwest dairy industry By Jean Caspers-Simmet Agri News staff writer JESUP, Iowa -- Iowa State University Extension dairy field specialist Larry Tranel is transforming the Midwest dairy industry one parlor at a time. Tranel said that the labor efficiency in many Midwest milking facilities is low. The physical strain of milking in a stall barn is taking a toll on producers' knees and backs. "The annual labor cost alone milking in a stall barn vs. a well designed parlor could justify a $10,000 to $20,000 low-cost parlor expense with the labor savings realized in less than one year," Tranel said. "It also improves quality of life and is safer and healthier to milk in." By studying several parlors, building a low-cost parlor of his own and consulting with many farmers on their parlors, Tranel developed the TRANS Iowa Low-Cost Milking Parlor Design. He constantly revises it. Many stall barns can be retrofitted for a swing 10 parlor with holding area for 100 to 120 cows, Tranel said. Many outdated parlors can be remodeled going from a double six to a swing 10 parabone parlor. One Iowa producer remodeled his parlor for $2,000. For $14,000 to $20,000, many producers have built nice parlors. "You need to get out and look at what other producers are doing and ask ISU Extension to come out and assess your facilities and remodeling opportunities," Tranel said. He urged farmers to visit the Northeast Iowa Dairy Grazing Center in Calmar to look at a low-cost design. ISU Extension will come out to dairy farms for free, help design parlors and then return several times during the building process. Information and plans to build the TRANS Iowa Design Parlor are available at www.extension.iastate.edu/dubuque/staff/tranel.htm. Most structurally sound stall barns make good candidates for low-cost pit parlor milking systems, Tranel said. The area closest to the milk house normally would house the enclosed parlor, needing a 20-foot to 22-foot-wide by 27-foot to 30- foot-long area for a swing 10 parlor. That leaves a 20-by-27-foot holding area. The parlor/holding area takes two-thirds of the barn closest to the milk house. The other one-third is used as an exit lane and palpation rail, but usually for just the length of the parlor. The remainder of the barn down from the palpation rail and across the holding area can be used for maternity/sick pens and additional holding area if needed. The slopes of the parlor floors are important, Tranel said. The most crucial measurements in the parlor are the position of the manure splash guard and kick rail. The pit can be dug with a skid steer. The pit is six feet wide with the middle of the pit floor 1.5 inches higher than the sides. The parlor platform slopes 1.5 percent to 2 percent downward toward the holding area. Cows prefer to walk up hill, Tranel said. Cows and people respond to light, Tranel said. The more light in the parlor, the better. "Low-cost parlors can help small- and mid-sized farms remain in business," Tranel said.