University of Idaho CAFE

Latest Dairy Technology to Fuel Research and Education at University of Idaho

The Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) at the University of Idaho will soon be home to the largest dairy research facility in the US. With cutting-edge design leadership from Keller Associates and the newest rotary parlor from DeLaval, this TDS-managed project will benefit dairy farms around the world for years to come.

According to the University of Idaho, “CAFE will deliver research and education that will support a sustainable future for Idaho’s dairies, livestock operations, crop production and food processing industries. The center will link research, education and outreach in a public-private partnership to support the state of Idaho, generate jobs and support economic progress.”

Stretch Murdock, Account Manager for TDS, says it’s a large team that will make it happen. TDS and DeLaval will deliver the milking technology, equipment and service, while Keller Associates and Ag Professionals will handle the facility design and engineering.

Murdock has worked closely with the board at CAFE for several years, and says the latest technology is an important piece of this facility. “We’ll be installing a 60-bail E500 rotary parlor from DeLaval. The board chose the rotary for efficiency and the speed they’ll be able to milk the cows.”

Nathan Cleaver, PE, Lead Design Engineer from Keller Associates, cites several additional benefits to the rotary parlor. He says the reduction of labor that a rotary parlor offers makes for a more palatable investment when you pencil out the reduced cost of operation over 10 years, compared to a parallel parlor. It’s also a lower up-front capital investment than robots.

“Since it’s a demonstration facility, there will always be tours, and everyone always wants to see the parlor,” Cleaver says. “A rotary is best for observation; you have views you wouldn’t get on a typical dairy, and everyone will be invited to see this.”

Once complete, the all-new site will have capacity for up to 2,000 milking cows, a major transformation from the University’s current 200-cow dairy. The research dairy is part of a larger project that includes a Demonstration Farm and Discovery Center, located in the “Magic Valley,” the heartland of dairy production in Idaho. At the research dairy, Masters’ Degree students will conduct research focusing on environmental sustainability for large dairies.

“That’s one thing that makes this facility unique: the size of the dairy,” Cleaver says. “Most of the research dairies in the US have 500 or fewer milking cows. And not only that, but Idaho also has an excellent Extension system from which to disseminate learnings to other dairies.”

Soil sampling at the 640-acre site began in fall of 2020, and the target date for completion of the project is in 2023. “This will be a really nice project, and we’re looking forward to working with everyone involved,” Murdock says.

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