Chris Heins manages Heins Family Dairy in Higginsville with his parents, Paul and Cindy.

Chris Heins manages Heins Family Dairy in Higginsville with his parents, Paul and Cindy.

Young dairy farmers across Missouri are discovering innovative ways to enhance and improve their day-to-day operations. By implementing new technology, farmers can increase production and profit while decreasing their environmental impact.

Environmentally Friendly Efficiency

Located in Higginsville, Heins Family Farm is managed by 29-year-old Chris Heins, a sixthgeneration dairy farmer, and his parents, Paul and Cindy. The family milks approximately 650 Holstein cows that produce about 6,000 gallons of milk per day in their new, modern facilities that were completed in fall 2009. The main dairy building includes a state-ofthe- art milking parlor, milk storage tanks and an office, while three freestall barns house the cows.

The milking parlor features double-10 Westfalia-Surge parallel stalls with sequencing gates to position the cows in the correct milking spots. One person can milk 100 cows in an hour due to the building’s efficient setup.

“When we designed our new dairy, we designed it to be animal friendly, people friendly and environmentally friendly,” Heins says. “This applies to each aspect of the farm, including the milk parlor.”

In addition, the Heins family worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to create an environmentally friendly waste-management system on their property. The system is located half a mile from all surrounding neighbors and features a waste flush and lagoon system, as well as a sand and manure settling area to help manage odor and nutrient runoff.

Chris Heins can milk 100 cows an hour in the state-of-the-art milking parlor at Heins Family Dairy.

Chris Heins can milk 100 cows an hour in the state-of-the-art milking parlor at Heins Family Dairy.

Farm of the Future

Harrisonville-based Moreland Farms, managed by 29-year-old Matt Moreland alongside his father and uncle, is laying the groundwork for new, more efficient milking and waste-management systems.

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The new barn will include a robotic milking system in which three robots will each milk 60 cows three times a day. During the milking process, the robots will monitor how much milk the cows produce as well as each cow’s weight and location in the barn.

The new barn will also include automated cleaners that will operate 24-7, sending the waste into a receptacle that will separate the liquid from the solids. While the liquids will be sent to a lagoon and used as fertilizer, the solids will be dried and used as sterile bedding for the cows once the bacteria has been removed. Moreland says the dried manure will be placed on top of water beds or foam mattresses instead of the sand that currently serves as the cows’ bedding.

milking tech [INFOGRAPHIC]Additionally, because cows have a natural tendency to push their food away as they eat, a robot will drive down the fence line once an hour to move the food back towards the cows so they can reach it. The barn will also feature rotating cow brushes along the walls, which Moreland describes as “streetsweeper brushes but designed for cows.” He says the brushes will keep the cows clean, and they typically like how it feels to be brushed.

While the farm’s new operations aren’t up and running yet, they are in the process of finalizing their plans and taking bids from contractors. “It’s a very big project,” Moreland says. “We want to make sure we do it right.”

The new barn and its modern technology will be expensive, but Moreland believes the cost is worth it to help cut costs in the future.

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“We won’t have to be there physically milking the cows ourselves because robots will do that,” Moreland says. “We can focus our time elsewhere.”

Back in Higginsville, Heins looks even further ahead.

“I’m a sixth-generation farmer. It’s my responsibility to be a good steward of the land, animals and natural resources, so they’re around for another six generations,” Heins says. “We, as American farmers, have responsibilities to our families, communities, future generations and to the growing world.”

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