free stall barn

Feeding time in the free stall heifer barns at Brubaker Farms, which is both a diary and green energy producer in Mount Joy, PA on March 19, 2011. The family farm owned by Luke, Mike and Tony Brubaker has approximately 850 cows and 700 young stock, producing 20,200,000 pounds of milk last year. It has 13 full-time employees and more than 1,500 acres of farmland. Their methane digester was made possible with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant that provided a cost-share of the digester purchase. It can handle more than 41,859 metric tons of organic waste, to capture methane gas that fuels a low emission generator producing 225 kW. This powers the digester itself and farm operations. Excess power is sold to the local power grid, allowing the community to benefit from a green energy source. After producing methane, effluent from the digester is pressed to separate liquid and solid materials. The farm uses the liquids in fertilizer; and solids become the cows’ bedding for Brubaker and other local farms, that is cleaner than sawdust. The bedding saves the farm approximately $30,000 per year. Mount Joy residents can enjoy the fact that the process removes 90% of the odor from the cow manure. The methane itself is odorless and colorless. The system can accept an additional 2,600 gallons of food waste per day from local sources that would otherwise dispose of it in a local landfill. Additionally, their nutrient credits can be sold to the local municipality to help it to meet federal requirements and to keep sewer bills from rising. This provides additional revenue for the farm, and creates environmentally friendly community partnerships. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

When walking across a wet or icy sidewalk, people sometimes can take a tumble. Just like humans, without solid ground to walk on, cattle can also get injured. To keep that from happening, the experts at the Kansas State (K-State) University Beef Cattle Institute offered some advice during a recent Cattle Chat podcast.

“Without the right type of flooring, cattle can slip and fall when going through a handling facility and risk injury,” veterinarian Brian Lubbers said.

Lubbers recommends producers offer grooved concrete or mats for the cattle to walk on.

“The advantage of concrete is that it can be easily cleaned to aid in disease prevention,” Lubbers said. But he stressed that if the concrete is not poured correctly, it can be a risk to cattle walking across it.

“It is important that the concrete has grooves in it, but if they are too deep or too shallow, the cattle could have issues,” Lubbers said. He advised consulting with an agricultural engineer when planning the concrete design.

Along with ease of cleaning, veterinarian Bob Larson said it is also important that the flooring provides the animals stability.

“In beef operations where the cattle are not going through the handling facilities regularly, a dirt floor can work well,” Larson said. “The dirt provides the traction, and because of the time delay in working cattle through the chute, mud and manure [are] not likely to build up.”

Regardless of the flooring, it is important to design a facility that the cattle can easily move through, said the experts.

“The goal is to keep cattle from getting excited and flying out of the chute because when that happens, there can be a lot of hoof erosion,” Lubbers said.

One way to reduce the erosion is to use recycled tire mats, added Lubbers. “The mats provide traction and are easy to clean,” he said. K-State Research and Extension


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