Dean Marshik and his wife, Clare Palmquist, want a business that does right by its cows, its employees, and the community — making sustainability and a good quality of life a top priority.
A couple of years ago, this fifth-generation family farm built a new, technologically advanced and energy-efficient barn on their 155-cow dairy in Pierz, Minnesota. The new design included robotic milking facilities, energy-efficient lighting and ventilation, and renewable wind and solar power. Marshik and Palmquist sought improvements that would make Marshik Dairy strong enough for the next generation.
“The farm had to survive as a dairy for the next generation, and this is how we were going to make sure of it,” Marshik says.
Shift to robotic milkers
Robotics not only helped them run their farm more efficiently, it also improved their lifestyle and that of future generations on the farm through milking automation and increased cow comfort. The system features computerized identification tags, automatic cow traffic control, and integrated software that helps manage feed, record milk yields, and monitor cow activity.
New efficient barn
When designing their new barn, the couple implemented time-controlled fluorescent lighting, natural ventilation and heat retention, motor efficiency, heat recovery and milk cooling. These energy-efficient technologies save the dairy 110,000 kilowatt hours per year.
The barn was also built with expansion in mind, as it can easily be doubled in size by building a duplicate on the opposite side of the existing structure.
Wind energy has produced a portion of the farm's electrical needs since 2008. An unexpected benefit of the turbine is that it can be used to cross ventilate the barn. The dairy also is home to a 44-panel, 10.7-kW, roof-mounted solar array, which helps to offset electrical costs.
Both the wind turbine and the solar panels have contributed to energy savings. The wind turbine offsets 12% of the dairy’s electrical use, and annual solar generation is forecasted to be 13,663 kWh, which will reduce electrical use by 8%, or nearly $1,350.
In addition to their new milking facilities, Marshik and Palmquist added a new lagoon to their operation. With it, they are able to control runoff naturally by adding a filter strip containing alternate sections of gravel ridges and grass that retains particles and filters runoff water. Water is filtered before it reaches water sources, preventing runoff from ever entering the drainage system.
In addition to preventing runoff, their new manure management plan includes regular soil sampling, proper nutrient application, less need
for commercial fertilizer, and fuel savings. In fact, due to the increased use of manure, Marshik and Palmquist have been able to reduce commercial fertilizer use by 8%.
Seeing the results
Through renewable energy and automation, the dairy now is milking 60% more cows and has increased milk production by 48% — all while reducing their environmental impact.
Today, Marshik Dairy is generating nearly $9,000 in annual energy savings. Their long-term thinking and commitment to sustainability will
help the dairy thrive for generations to come.
“It’s not about the size of your farm,” Palmquist says. “These technologies can be implemented on any size dairy, as long as you’re willing to search for the opportunities.”
This article is reprinted with permission from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.