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He Takes Mobile Milking Parlor To His Cows
Mark McAfee has taken rotational grazing to the next level. As he rotates his cows through a series of paddocks, McAfee also rotates his milking parlor, moving it about once a week throughout the year as his 300-cow herd moves around his dairy farm.
"It looks like a 65-ft. mobile home, but it weighs 55,000 lbs. It has a welded steel superstructure that's sheeted with stainless steel on the inside. It's a raised parallel design with 20 stalls. We can milk 100 cows per hour with two guys," says McAfee.
Water is piped to the parlor via an underground plastic pipe with 40 docking stations, one every 250 ft. The pipe and the parlor follow a road at the head of the pasture paddocks. A 120 hp diesel-powered generator powers the parlor, including the cooling system that chills milk from 99 to 34 in less than a minute. Stainless steel 1,000-gal. milk tanks on trailers move the freshly chilled milk to the on-farm bottling plant.
McAfee had been producing organic alfalfa for other dairies until he and his family set up Organic Pastures Dairy Company in 2000. Cattle spend all their time on pasture, which McAfee says eliminates pathogens. Wastewater from the parlor is returned to recently grazed paddocks through a field irrigation system.
"We put the cows first, and when you change the conditions where cows eat and rest, you change the conditions of milk," says McAfee. "We figured out how to make pathogen-free milk."
McAfee credits the mobile parlor for helping the farm maintain its status as a legal supplier of not just organic milk, but raw milk. He also suggests that the expense of setting up the mobile parlor requires getting the highest possible return for your milk.
"We went to $12 per gallon when we started selling raw milk," he says. "We're now in 250 stores with 10 trucks making deliveries."
The high value return justified the investment of $50,000 in engineering and nearly $900,000 in construction costs to build the parlor. Detailed plans are available for $1,000, and McAfee says he has sold several, though none have yet been built.
"I wouldn't recommend it for a super wet area," he says. "We only get about 10 in. of rain a year. I also can't really argue for a mobile milk parlor unless you have a market for raw or organic milk."
While the organic market is very strong, raw milk sales are limited. McAfee notes there are five or six states that allow sale of raw milk, and laws against it are being challenged. "State by state, things are changing," he says. "I can't post health claims, but I have asthma patients lining up for our milk and an Air Force doctor writes prescriptions for raw milk to prevent bronchial problems."
Secure that he has a growing market, McAfee is currently planning a next generation parlor. It'll be lighter weight, less costly to build, and designed to be operated by a single person.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Organic Pastures Dairy Co., 7221 South Jameson Ave., Fresno, Calif. 93706 (ph 559 846-9732; toll free 877 729-6455; www.organicpastures.com).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #3