Chad Minnis of Car-Min-Vu Dairy in Webberville, Mich. had a vision of slow, steady growth for his family’s long-time dairy operation. Following his 1995 graduation from Michigan State University, Minnis returned to the 60-cow dairy to initiate that growth. Today, Car-Min-Vu is more than 10 times the original size, farming on roughly 2,000 acres, with more than 950 total cows, and over 850 of those cows in prime milking condition.
Minnis credits several factors for the expansion, including a new milking parlor, the building of a heifer barn, additions to existing barns, and the dairy’s decision to bed the cows on sand, rather than rubber and sawdust filled mattresses.
“The cows were uncomfortable on the rubber mattresses and had some leg problems,” Minnis said. “But sand bedding has been great – the cows like it and when they’re content, they’re happier and produce more milk.” He went on to mention that sand provides a comfortable bed, offers great traction and drains moisture well.
The decision to bed the cows on sand – while making them happy and more productive – necessitated a decision of how to best manage the manure deposited into the sand as it can be difficult to separate sand bedding from manure. Sand-laden manure is heavy and abrasive, often causing issues with equipment and posing safety concerns.
“We had to haul sand out pretty much every day, causing a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on our equipment,” Minnis said.
To combat this problem, Car-Min-Vu turned to McLanahan Corporation. “We started looking into different ways to deal with the sand in 2003/2004,” said Minnis. “We wanted a system that would be safe, easy-to-manage and would serve our needs for the long haul. Not a quick fix.”
Minnis worked with McLanahan’s Agricultural Sales and Customer Service Manager Renee Schrift. Schrift recommended the company’s Sand-Manure Separator, which would take the sand-laden manure and separate it into two recyclable products – a clean, dryer sand that could be re-used for cow bedding, as well as sand-free manure effluent that is easy-to-manage and can be used on fields.
“This was a solution that I thought would work well for Car-Min-Vu, and Chad has always been someone who wants his farm to utilize leading technologies while being efficient,” Schrift said.
Schrift detailed the system’s benefits, but Minnis was not ready to make the switch until he’d seen the benefits for himself, first-hand. So he and Schrift went on a tour of dairy barns in Pennsylvania and New York that were effectively using the separators.
“Seeing it for myself really showed me what a great system it was, and gave me confidence that it could work at our dairy,” Minnis said.
McLanahan and Car-Min-Vu worked together to engineer a solution that would fit the layout of Minnis’s farm. The new system was installed at the dairy in the fall of 2005.
McLanahan engineered a closed-loop into the process, so Car-Min-Vu can use recycled water to rinse sand during separation, limiting the amount of fresh water needed.
“Once we got the new system installed, I could see right away how this was going to help us in our future expansion plans,” Minnis said.
Since the system’s installation in 2005, Car-Min-Vu has grown from roughly 500 cows to more than 900 cows. Milk production soared from about 65 pounds of milk per cow daily to more than 83 pounds.
Minnis’s crew also spends less time managing the sand-laden manure, which cuts down on equipment costs. “It’s been great since we’ve installed the separator,” said Minnis. “We’re now recycling up to 90 percent of the sand, so we end up using less sand, and we’ve cut way down on wear and tear to our equipment.”
Uptime is critical at Minnis’s dairy, and the McLanahan separator system keeps the manure flow steady. The system is built with heavy-duty components and engineered with larger tolerances, resulting in less wear during operation, and ultimately minimizing downtime.
Minnis also appreciates that the system has improved the safety of his farm, by reducing the number of man-hours spent cleaning the tanks as well as cutting down on the weight of loaded-down trucks on the roads.
“The safety of the system has been an added benefit to the operation,” Minnis said.
He says he appreciated the support he got from Schrift and the team at McLanahan in choosing the system – as well as the ongoing support he gets from the company.
“Working with McLanahan is great,” Minnis said. “From the days when we toured those dairies to see the separators working, I knew Renee wasn’t just trying to sell me a machine, but trying to help us solve our problem. I appreciated that.”
With the success of the sand-separation system, Car-Min-Vu is now in a position to better manage its ongoing operations. “I like that we have a reliable and efficient way to manage the manure,” Minnis said. “It’s been great from an economic standpoint as well as for environmental sustainability.”