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Open Sidewall Dairy Farm
When fire destroyed their dairy barn, Matt and Linda Arends, Ionia, Mich., built a new "one-of -a-kind" free stall 170-cow barn with sidewalls covered by a fabric "curtain" in winter. In summer, the "curtain" is rolled up, leaving the sidewalls open for full wall natural ventilation.
The improved ventilation has reduced the losses that typically occur in hot weather. The unique ventilation method also reduced construction costs of the 86 by 232-ft. building which is attached to a 48 by 140-ft. milking center.
The sidewalls consist of posts spaced every 8 ft. Along the inside of the posts are two 2 by 10 in. boards to which the free stalls are mounted. Otherwise, during the summer that wall is completely open right up to the eave. Aplastic mesh is installed permanently over the side-wall opening to reduce flapping of the curtain in the wind when the curtain is closed, and to keep out birds.
In summer, five or six people roll up the 10 ft., 9 in. wide fabric rolls and tie them to each post with a piece of rope or chain, just under the eave. The rolls are stored under the eave for the entire summer. To close the sidewalls for winter, the ties are released and the hanging curtain is then fastened in place using a vertical 1 by 2 in. nailing strip at each post and horizontal nailing strips all along the bottom.
The concept of barns with fully open sidewalls isn't new, particularly in warmer climates, but it's a fairly new idea in colder climates, says Bill Bickert, Michigan State agricultural engineer.
According to Bickert, the Arends spent less than $1,000 to cover their barn with "curtain walls".
"Covering sidewalls with steel siding - no openings for summer - costs about $15 per cow. Constructing sidewall coverings with tilt-out windows and hinged, adjustable doors costs about $50 per cow. But to cover sidewalls with a woven, polypropylene fabric and plastic mesh costs less than $5 per cow," says Bicker'.
Contact Matt Arends, 3901 N. Jefferson, Ionia, Mich. 48846 (ph 616 527-2957) or Bill Bickers, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural Engineering, A.W. Farrall Agricultural Engineering Hall, East Lansing, Mich. 48824-1323 (ph 517 353-8643).

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1989 - Volume #13, Issue #3