Hudson Dairy innovates large scale dairy farming

There was pride in Milk Source Director of Public Affairs Bill Harke’s eyes as he surveyed the former Southern Michigan Dairies facility, now the Hudson Dairy, located south of Hudson on 127.

Cows are lined up and milked in Hudson Dairy's double 50 parallel parlor.

Cows are lined up and milked in Hudson Dairy’s double 50 parallel parlor.

Currently home to 2200 cows — of which there are 1500 milking — with plans to house up to 3400, the dairy has been completely renovated since its purchase by Milk Source in 2013.

The company has invested over thirty million dollars into the facility between the farm, the cows, and some of the technologies the dairy is bringing into usage to help the dairy be more environmentally friendly, efficient and kinder to its cattle.

“When you’re a large farm,” explained Harke, “You have certain environmental standards you need to achieve. We take pride in going beyond the minimums and our size allows us some efficiencies as we do this.”

One of the efficiencies that Harke is referring to is the dairy’s system for recycling sand and separating manure into solids and liquids. Manure comes into the facility in its natural, mostly liquid form, where the manure is collected by a machine that blasts water through the mix to remove the sand from the manure. The remaining mix is shaken, and the separated sand is put into a pile to be dried and reused. The remaining liquid manure goes into a roller separator where the water is squeezed out to create a solid compost. “This is a system we’ve used before,” said Harke, “And it’s worked well for us.”

Another is the livestock wastewater recycling plant that Milk Source has invested nearly two million dollars into. The system is essentially a municipal wastewater treatment facility. “The idea is to treat the manure like a municipal wastewater treatment facility where we can return about 60% of the water to potable use,” explained Harke, saying that the treated water potentially could even be used again by humans, but will be reused to keep the facility clean and the cows watered. “It’s a technology we have very high expectations for, and we’re in the process of working through the installation.”

A bulldozer moves sand that has been cleaned for reuse into piles for storage.

A bulldozer moves sand that has been cleaned for reuse into piles for storage.

The comfort of the cows is still paramount, explains Herd Manager Husbaldo Dominguez, who has been with the company for eight years in Wisconsin and has been promoted to Hudson. “We have zero tolerance for animal abuse, and we like our cows to be happy.” Each barn even has a special water sprayer system running through the ceiling specifically to help cool the cows on overly warm days since dairy cows thrive in cooler temperatures.

The business is surprisingly national in scope, in that calves birthed by the dairy are sent to be raised at Calf Source in Wisconsin where they receive specialized care, then are sent to a heifer ranch in Kansas until they’re ready to produce milk at about 20 months old, when they return to the dairy.

The Hudson Dairy currently employs 35 people, and is one of eight facilities owned by Milk Source LLC, based in Kaukauna, Wis. When Hudson Dairy is fully up and running, it will be producing 30,000 gallons of milk a day, and when construction is complete, which Harke expects will be sometime after Labor Day, the facility will be open to tours by the public with appointments made 72 hours in advance. Visit their website at www.milksource.com or their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/MilkSource.