The first-in-the-nation indoor feed mixing center on a dairy to feature a drive-over commodity delivery bridge was on display in July at TLK Dairy in Mountain Home, Idaho.
More than 800 visitors from as far east as Missouri and from multiple states throughout the West attended an open house and took a tour of the facility.
“It was a good day. I think the feed mixing center is unique. We’re proud of it,” says dairy owner Terry Ketterling. “This feed mixing center is a ‘gotta-see’ deal.”
The former sugar beet farmer who turned dairyman in 2001 says the idea for the building has been in development for more than five years. The reason for the building? Feed shrink and improved efficiency.
TLK Dairy experiences above-average wind speeds and wind frequency for southwestern Idaho.
“The blowing away of feed was a problem,” Ketterling says. “At times, you couldn’t see while in the feedyard because of the feed in your face. I was trying to figure out a way to solve that problem.”
The solution on display recently was a 71,000-square-foot indoor commodity barn that mixes 820 tons of feed per day to feed the 17,500 dairy animals on-site. Ketterling says the new facility has improved feed mixing accuracy, reduced the number of mixers needed to feed, decreased overall feed mixing time and labor, and contributed to less feed shrink.
He asserts the mixing center is just as beneficial to his dairy as a new barn of milking cows and has significantly lowered the dairy’s breakeven cost.
“I know now that what we’re buying is being fed or staying right there in the building,” Ketterling says. “If it’s dust, it will settle. It’s still cow feed, and it’s not becoming bird feed.”
Also on display during the event were the dairy’s new calf barns. They are climate-controlled with automated side curtains and fans that take commands from an on-site weather station. Bottle-feeding in groups of nine calves within the building is another unique idea the dairy has employed. Each pen allows for 40 square feet of space per calf.
Ketterling says when planning to raise his own calves, he had doubts whether his dairy could have pulled off raising them in hutches due to the local weather and labor supply. After looking at a group-housing situation at a dairy in Iowa, he decided to build pens instead of hutches for his bottle-fed calves.
When all of the pens are full, the dairy will be able to bottle-feed more than 1,500 heifers instead of sending them off-site to be raised.
“Cows are herd animals,” he says. “They like to be together. As an industry, on day one we take a baby calf and put it in solitary confinement for 60 days. At the end of that time, we put them in little groups so they can learn to live with each other again. Don’t you think we’re taking the ‘herd mentality’ from them this way? I believe that.”
The dairy has been filling the barns with its bull calves and fine-tuning its calf-raising procedures since this spring and plans to introduce heifer calves into the buildings this summer. Thus far, death loss has been below 1 percent. The five new calf facilities will enable TLK Dairy to keep all of its replacements on-site from calving through freshening and then milking.
“This nursery area, coupled with feeding a higher plane of nutrition to our heifers, is our way of getting better without having to build another barn full of milk cows,” Ketterling says.
PHOTO 1: Open house visitors came to Mountain Home, Idaho in July to see the first-in-the-nation drive-over commodity unloading bridge inside an enclosed feed mixing center at a dairy. The facility mixes more than 820 tons of feed per day for 17,500 dairy animals on site.
The dairy also showcased its five new calf-raising barns. The dairy will soon begin bottle-feeding its own replacements in group pens inside the new facilities. Each barn holds about 300 calves segregated into groups of nine calves per pen.
PHOTO 2: More than 800 people from across the western U.S. came to an open house at TLK Dairy July 12.
PHOTO 3: Among the dignitaries who attended the open house at TLK Dairy, owned by Terry Ketterling (second from right), were (from left to right) former Idaho Speaker of the House Bruce Newcomb, Director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture Cecilia Gould, Lt. Governor of Idaho Brad Little and state representative Megan Blanksma. Photo courtesy of TLK Dairy.
- Progressive Dairyman
- Email Walt Cooley