Manure systems have certainly evolved over time – from pitching stalls to extracting dischargeable water. They vary depending on bedding type, performance and desired end products. Producers choosing to use sand for bedding have seen a variety of options to reclaim the sand. One of the most popular systems Bob Komro with Komro Sales & Service, Inc. has been building thus far is the flush flume, closed-loop system.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

The closed loop helps improve the water quality – yielding cleaner sand – because it allows the operator to control the elements and variables in the recovery process.

The flush flume is popular because it is “a simple way to move sand-laden manure,” he says. However, the topography of the dairy is a deciding factor on whether it would work for that particular farm.

Three dairy producers who have installed flush flume closed-loop systems recently shared how it has helped their dairies.

Jon-De Farms
Baldwin, Wisconsin

Dean Doornink of Jon-De Farms in Baldwin, Wisconsin, installed his first sand recovery system, including a separator and cyclone, in 2000 when new freestall barns were added.


Eight years later, older freestalls on the dairy were converted to sand from mattresses and sawdust. With sand-laden manure from 1,700 cows, it taxed the system designed for 1,000 cows.

In addition, it was labor-intensive, requiring skid-steer scraping as well as moving the piles of reclaimed sand stacked outside on a regular basis.

“I don’t like moving sand around,” Doornink says. “It requires labor.”

After seeing the closed-loop system two years ago, the Doorninks decided to revamp their sand separation system with major goals to reduce labor and management.

Finding the location for this new system was a challenge: Based on the topography of the dairy, there was only one location that would work, Doornink says, but it was the most heavily traveled intersection on the farm. They were able to work with Komro to keep the footprint minimal.

The project started in September 2011. The barns were converted from central collection to end collection and automatic barn scrapers were installed. In addition, the old separation equipment was moved to the new building. It was a good winter for construction and the system was complete by the end of February.

“I’m really pleased with the quality of sand,” Doornink says, noting cleaner water makes the whole system work better.

When the water isn’t clean enough, management problems arise.

Doornink used to take his cell phone to bed in case there was a problem with the old sand system overnight. With the new system, he ended up having to be away from the farm for four weeks – and it kept right on working. “It has exceeded my expectations for management,” he says.

It has also paid for itself quickly in his situation. The farm used to spend $28,000 on new sand each year. The addition of the cyclone dropped the cost of new sand to $10,000 per year but could not eliminate the cost completely. New sand still had to be purchased because the sand stacked outside could not be used in the winter.

With the new system, the recycled sand can be put back in the stall within three days and can be used throughout the year.

The farm has yet to purchase any new sand since its installation because it can reuse the recycled sand faster and has enough old sand piles from past winters to supply its needs for the next three years.

Riverview LLP
Veblen, South Dakota

When Riverview LLP assumed ownership of Marshall Dairy in Veblen, South Dakota, the new owners recognized the existing sand separation system was using a tremendous amount of fresh water (30 gallons per cow) to make the sand settle out. It was also reclaiming only 60 percent of the sand and the quality of it was poor at best, reports Lyle Grimm with Riverview.

The new owners wanted to use vacuum tanks and process the sand by the manure storage, but the existing sand facilities were intense and too large to abandon, so they decided to design a new system to fit and work with minimal building conversions.

Designed for 17,000 cows, the new system cut the fresh water usage by two-thirds. The only portion drawing fresh water is the spray water on the upright separator.

To increase the cleanliness of the sand, it is set up to use water collected from the feed pad instead of the parlor.

Grimm says the biggest challenge with the retrofit was continuing to operate the dairy while the barns were converted to the new system.

It paid off, however, with the dairy now reclaiming 99.5 percent of its sand. “We thought we’d lose 2 to 3 percent, so that’s better than expected,” he says.

Plus, it can use the bedding sooner than before. Reclaimed sand used to sit for eight to 10 days before use, but “it’s dry enough,” Grimm says, adding it is now used after three to four days.

With 13,500 cows, the farm is only buying $15,000 of sand a year, far less than what it was before.

Daley Farms
Lewiston, Minnesota

Before building a 1,500-cow facility in Lewiston, Minnesota, in 1997, the Daleys were milking cows in three tiestall barns bedded with sawdust. This influenced a decision to bed with sawdust over mattresses in their new setup, which had gravity flow channels from the barn to the lagoon.

Daley Farms was busy bedding three times a day with the mattresses. Ben Daley says they weren’t getting the production they wanted, only a 70-pound average per cow with an average somatic cell count of 220,000. Plus there were a number of lame cows, perching cows and poor use of stalls.

In 2008, they switched to sand bedding by tearing out the old concrete and re-pouring the sand curbs. They also lengthened the stalls by one to two inches, which helped with cow comfort.

After two months in the sand, the average production increased from 75 to 90 pounds. Foot and hock health improved and the cows laid down instead of perching.

The cows were also eating more. Cull cows now weighed 400 pounds more, which yielded a gain in income from cull cow sales.

Their somatic cell count dropped to 150,000 to 180,000.

With cow comfort, mastitis and production improved, the Daleys wanted to eliminate sand going into the manure pit.

The farm site is very flat, and they didn’t want to retrofit everything for a flume. Therefore, the goal of a new system was to eliminate sand in the lagoon but to still allow for vacuum tank delivery.

Now, when the vacuum tank driver delivers a load to the drop tank, he can turn on the system with a remote control unit in the cab.

The sand building was also built large enough to be able to power wash equipment inside the building.

“Overall, we are really pleased,” Daley says.

The farm had been using 100 silage truckloads of sand per month from a nearby sugar sand pile. Now it’s down to eight loads of sand every two to three months. Instead of the sugar sand, they are using a larger grain sand from the river. All sugar sand was removed from the stalls before implementing the reclaiming system.

A new vibrating sand dryer added to the system removes extra moisture from the cleaned sand (about five gallons every three minutes), which has also cut back sand storage time on the farm from 14 days to five days, reducing inventory by 65 percent.

Without the sand in the manure, the Daleys are now able to dragline the manure to fields further away from the farm. PD

Three dairy producers, left to right, Dean Doornink of Baldwin, Wisconsin; Ben Daley of Lewiston, Minnesota; and Lyle Grimm of Veblen of South Dakota; discussed their recent conversions to flush flume, closed-loop sand reclamation systems. Photo by Karen Lee.


Karen Lee
Progressive Dairyman