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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

"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 Many outdated parlors can be remodeled going from a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

"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

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

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

"Low-cost parlors can help small- and mid-sized farms remain in business,"
Tranel said.