By Janet Kubat Willette

FARIBAULT, Minn. — Randy and Kathy Bauer needed to make changes on their dairy farm, but they didn’t know which way to go.

They were milking 65 cows in 32 tie stalls. Randy had knee surgery and Kathy wouldn’t milk in a step-up parlor.

One night, Randy couldn’t sleep so he typed "low-cost parlor" into the Google search on the Internet and Vance Haugen’s name came up.


Haugen is a Crawford County agriculture agent with University of Wisconsin Extension. The couple contacted him and he provided them with information, including a compact disk, on low-cost parlors.

They began milking their herd in a swing nine parlor located in the tie-stall barn in April 2006. The cows stand at a 70-degree angle and the milkers are attached from between the hind legs.

The stalls were removed and the gutters filled with cement to make a holding area and return for the parlor.

Jackhammers broke up the cement and then a skidsteer moved in to dig a 42-inch deep parlor pit.

It was an inexpensive way to get into a parlor, Randy said.

"I did not envision you could have a decent looking parlor," Kathy said. She figured they’d have to rely on baler twine and duct tape to have an inexpensive parlor.

The parlor has saved labor and is easier on their bodies.

Two people had to milk in the tie-stall barn, but one can milk in the parlor, Kathy said. It goes faster with two, she added. Her knees and shoulders feel much better now.


Kathy does most of the milking and takes care of the calves. Randy feeds the cows and hauls manure. Their son, Glen, who is an electrician, helps on nights and weekends. They are milking 76 cows and have a herd of 90. They have Holsteins and registered Jerseys. They don’t crossbred.

The Bauers were able to use the milkers from the tie-stall barn in the new parlor. The milkers don’t have automatic take-off, but they do have automation in the parlor, Randy said, displaying a pulley system that opens a door in the rear of the barn to let the cows out of the return alley for their trip back to the free-stall barn.

Cows moved into the three-row, sand-bedded free-stall barn on Feb. 18, 2006.

They walk from the tie-stall barn to the 156-foot-long by 62-foot-wide free-stall barn on a lane that is grooved and fenced.

The free-stall barn has an 11-stall area for special needs cows and training heifers. Their somatic cell count has dropped below 100,000 since the cows moved into the free-stall barn that uses washed lime from the Rochester area.

"We don’t have anything really fancy or anything really big," Kathy said, but they have modernized to take advantage of more recent ideas for cow and people comfort.

Their modernization wasn’t without challenges. It was difficult to find equipment dealers to work with, Kathy said. They wanted to keep costs low, yet find a system that would work.

They milked in the tie-stall barn while the work progressed on the parlor. It took 19 days from start-to-finish. They tore out the last stalls between milkings one day, coordinating with suppliers so the pipeline could be hooked up in time for the evening milking.


The couple have been milking together for 25 years, growing their herd from 23 cows to 90. They started with Holsteins, Jerseys, Ayrshires and a Brown Swiss. They’ve increased their herd from within and have sold springers for the past 10 years. They’ve used all artificial insemination since 1976.

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