Del Rio Dairy runs high-tech parlor

By Lindsay Reyes

FRIONA, Texas – Del Rio Dairy was built near Friona after owner Rocky Ging saw his Arizona dairy being squeezed out of its location by urbanization and developers. The high-tech operation provides a steady stream of milk production and cow management data.

Ging started searching for other places to move the dairy to and had heard that the Texas Panhandle was a good place to come. Land around Friona was relatively inexpensive and the water was good.

“We brought the Saudi-style barns from Arizona because we believed it would work well out here,” said dairy manager Chris Reed. “The Saudi barn was new to the industry out here and the dairy received a lot of attention because of that.”

Reed sheds some light on their WestfaliaSurge parlor, which features two double-45 parallels and full automation, milk meters and basement barn. “We collect milk weights every single day from our 11 milking pens of 3,100 cows with a capacity of 3,300,” said Reed.

“Other features include sort gates, which allow us to sort out mastitis, dry and beef cows instead of workers chasing cows all over the corrals.

“The guys working the cows fought it at first. They said it wasn’t going to work and they hated it. But now, if I pulled the sort-gate technology away from them they would all cry,” Reed declared.

Why WestfaliaSurge?

“Rocky’s dad had a WestfaliaSurge system on their dairy in Arizona and had good support service there. As they began looking in the Panhandle there were more people familiar with it here and more service providers than some of the other brands,” explained Reed.

Technology makes a difference

When Ging built the barn, in addition to the milk meters, he outfitted the operation with an automated wash system and all the cows are collared with transponders, which provides production data and improves their ability to manage and move cows efficiently. They now know where the cows are each day, and not getting them mixed up in the wrong pens.

According to Reed, milk weight data are used for many management decisions, including dry cows, and beef cows. “Our system produces a milk alarm list, which measures conductivity and flags production losses 24 hours a day,” Reed said. “Night and day shifts get the lists so milkers can check suspect cows for any health problems.”

Milkers have the ability to press a code in the electronic key panel and if there is a mastitis cow, she is automatically sorted and put in a catch pen where she can be treated properly.

“We try to get the most out of the system’s capabilities. Rocky and I are always going into the system and generating new reports – finding new ways to improve the management side of the operation,” Reed said.

This technology also helps solve the mixed cows issue. It makes it easy for Reed to know where each cow is located. He can run a report and quickly fix those problems.

“It makes a big difference if you know where those animals are versus having a barn that doesn’t have transponders to track each animal,” Reed explained.

The typical scenario

A typical scenario on the dairy is this: “A cow pusher forgets to close a gate and nobody says anything. The feeder starts noticing that something is wrong, but doesn’t say anything. Then it’s time for the veterinarian check and the cows he needs to see are somewhere else. You have a big problem,” Reed said.

The system also helps management know which shift the cows were mixed up and can hold the right people accountable.

System does so much more

He also pointed out that the barn manager can quickly see:

• how long milking took

• number of turns

• how long it takes to load and

• how many time they hit the manual or stop button.

Del Rio likes to average about 420-440 cows/hour and if they drop below that, the manager will be able to tell. Such information is kept in the system for seven days giving the barn manager an excellent tool for quickly evaluating his milkers.

“Tools like these make it better than going back and screaming at the milkers,” said Reed.

What’s in the parlor?

• 2 WestfaliaSurge double-45 parallels

• Basic vacuum pump with variable drives

• Parallel barn features rapid exit PBI stalls

• KoolWay milk tanks

• 2 coolers on every tank (200,400 lbs. of  milk shipped daily)

• WestfaliaSurge passive individual ID

• WestfaliaSurge Auto select sort gates