1980 - Volume #4, Issue #2, Page #31[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
New Barn Cleaner Has No Moving Parts
It has no moving parts. In fact, the only thing that moves is the manure itself.
This system is one that was conceived in West Germany, being used in virtually all ne v dairy operations in that country, and it was designed for Lettner by a German engineering firm. Moreover, metal grates that cover an unusual gutter, which is more like a pit, were imported from a West German manufacturer.
In all, the Lettners' conventionalappearing, hip-roof barn, built perhaps a half-century ago, shrouds the only manure handling system of its kind not only in Wisconsin, but in the United States and Canada.
Built by Lettner and his sons, the system works, but it is being monitored closely by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to ensure it complies with "Ag 80," Wisconsin's grade A milk code.
Instead of finding the usual barn cleaner gutter behind each cow, running the length of the barn, together with cleaner chain, one observes a metal grate, 1 meter (40 inches) wide, running the length of the barn.
Beneath the grate is a pit, from 3 to 5 feet deep. But there are no moving parts in this pit that not only runs the length of the whole barn, but also runs across the north end, under the manger area, also collecting manure from an attached calf barn with the same manure movement system.
Manure gets from the Lettner barn into an outside reception pit, and then into a new slurry tank storage unit "naturally," not only eliminating winter manure spreading at the Lettner farm, but also erasing the problem of broken gutter chains and the purchase of barn cleaners, as well as use of electricity.
Metal grates are floor level, or the same height as both the walkway near the outer wall of the barn and the floor under tie stalls or near stanchions (there are both in the Lettner barn).
Of course, this floor-level grate means cattle no longer have to step (by design or mistake) into the barn' cleaner gutter when getting in and out of their stanchions or tie-stall area; it means that if large cows lay down or stand up, the rear half of the udder,,will not be in the gutter; and it means that if a "mistake" occurs (a calf is born while_ her dam is in the stanchion or tie-stall), the calf will not experience its first few hours in a manure-laden barn cleaner gutter. The Lettners have their cows calve in individual stalls.
There are three levels of depth in the German system used at Dick and Ann Lettner's farm. At the south end of the barn, which is the "far end," the pit beneath the grating system is 1 meter, or about 40 inches. This depth is maintained for about 45 feet when it drops 8 inches. This same level is maintained for the next 45 feet when another 8-inch drop in level is maintained. Thus, it's 5 feet deep at the north end.
At each of the two changes of depth there is a 6-inch high concrete "dam" that holds back 6 inches of manure, which is in the barn manure pit at all times.
Manure moves out of the barn when bacterial action puts it into a liquid state by breaking down solids. Movement of the manure is "automatic." That is there is no cleaner chain to move it into the outside receptionpit, there is no flushing out of the system with water to make it move. In effect, it moves itself.
The outside portion of the Lettner manure handling system is just like any other liquid manure system used by thousand of farmers. Manure moves from the reception pit into the slurry tank where it is held until it is emptied and spread on the Lettners' 440-acre farm with a tractor and tank.
Why go to a system like this that probably no other dairyman in the United States has? "Why not?" the progressive southern Trempealeau County farmer replied. "I have to admit it was a tremendous amount of work putting it into a conventional barn, but it eliminated moving parts and should last forever, or as long as the barn lasts because it is built entirely of concrete beneath the metal grates." Several times a week the grates are clea
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