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Opening ISU’s new dairy doors

By Staff | Jul 17, 2009

Leo Timms, Iowa State University dairy specialist, conducts one of several tours held Friday during an open house at ISU’s new dairy facility. He is explaining to visitors how milk, fresh from the cow and at about 100 degrees, is pre-cooled in the milk room before it is pumped into a bulk storage tank.

AMES – Calf nutrition and immunity animal pain management, various nutrition studies mastitis control cow comfort. These are a few of the research projects being conducted inside the new dairy facility at Iowa State University.

Milking 365 dairy cows twice daily – 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. – the commercial dairy operation is, in the words of Leo Timms, Extension dairy specialist, “is focused on healthy animals and healthy food.” The farm has 230 replacement calves on hand. Some will be introduced into the milking herd. Others will be sold to other dairy farms, Timms said, or to other research projects.

He said the operation has all six dairy breeds – Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorns.

Timms and other dairy and livestock specialists were on hand in June conducting numerous tours during an open house at the ISU facility that started at 5:30 a.m. and continued to just before noon. The event coordinated June dairy month promotions, along with giving the general public a look into the facility that has been in operation for just over a year.

Timms explained to one tour how a cold water exchange system cools the hot milk, at nearly 100 degrees fresh from the udder to 58 degrees. The milk is then pumped into a bulk storage tank that cools the milk to 38 degrees then awaits pickup by Swiss Valley.

Over 600 people attended the June open house at Iowa State University’s new dairy facility. Visitors were treated to a variety of interactive educational displays and dairy treats.

The dairy operation has a capacity for 530 cows. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get up to capacity within a few years,” Timms said. Meanwhile, as the herd grows he’s confident more research projects will be conducted.

“This isn’t just a dairy farm,” he said. “It’s a learning ground.”

The dairy program moved into the new facility in November 2007. Timms said they planned breeding so that they would move primarily older animals. By February they had 137 calves in the young stock buildings.

Since moving into the facility, Timms said that more people have come into the program and are doing more projects and performing more services than in the older operation.

“We’ve been a major player in the dairy industry in this state for a long time,” Timms said. “We’ve moved more people into the industry than anybody.”

As a result of more people and industry groups seeking out research assistance from ISU’s dairy program, Timms said, “our (veterinary) schools will be the premier food animal resource.”

Meanwhile, Dan Morical, farm coordinator, was conducting his seventh tour of the day. He showed his group the heifer barns, “where the calves learn to socialize with other animals.”

He also explained how the operation composts its manure. Other yard waste from the ISU campus in general is also brought here, including leaves and branches.

Morical said the composting is turned in berms on a regular basis. When the composting is complete, he the plan is to mix it with clean soil and sell it back to Reiman Gardens on campus and to area landscapers, “It should be a very good product,” Morical said.

Morical admitted however, that although the work is exciting, the financial picture is not. The operation is, like every other commercial dairy in the country, losing money. “We’ll lose a half million dollars this year,” he said.

He said the university’s cost for producing 100 pounds of milk is between $14 to $16. The current milk check is paying $8 for the same 100 pounds.

Morical said the dairy is completely self-sustaining. He answered one visitor’s question saying that no taxpayer money was used in building the operation and none is used for daily operations. “We are living on our fund balances,” he said.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453; or by e-mail at kersh@farm-news.com.

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