A dairy machine that will astound

Where would the north country be without the dairy machine? We have more than 30,000 machines located in nearly 230 businesses. The machines employ green technology to manufacture several products. Their annual economic impact totals about $400 million.

Jay Matteson

The machines come in many brands, each with its own production specialty. Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, Jersey and Norwegian Red are available, some producing greater quantities of product and others better suited to make superior product components. If a business is focusing on producing a product with higher protein or butterfat components, it may select the Guernsey brand. If higher production output is desired, Holstein might be a better choice.

These dairy machines are biological systems fueled by biomass to supply energy needed to operate and the raw material they convert into their fluid product. Machine production is very dependent upon the quality and quantity of feedstock. High protein and carbohydrates are needed. Business owners learned how to minutely manipulate the chemistry of the system to maximize output. Correct harvest of biomass feedstock is critical. Harvests must occur at the proper time with correct moisture content to ensure the highest energy value. Generally, corn, soybeans and grass are major components of feedstock fed into the machine engine to meet demands of high production. It takes approximately 100 pounds of feedstock and 50 gallons of water each day to maintain proper working condition of the machine engine.

As with any machinery, there are many consultant businesses that are brought in to improve function. Some consultants focus on the machine directly, providing services that maintain the health of biological system. Every aspect of the machine function can be assessed in detail and corrected or improved. Other consulting professionals address feedstock for machinery of the dairy business, with the goal to enable the highest quality feedstock. The facilities housing the machinery also are subject to intense scrutiny of consultants. Professionals advise dairy business owners on how to change lighting, ventilation, machinery operating space, energy and waste recycling systems to optimize product output. Advanced computer systems are employed in many businesses to aid in machinery management.

The average machine takes about 15 months from creation to the first day it begins production. The average production expectancy is five years before its yield drops to unprofitable levels, although some are known to maintain production for a decade or more. Once the machine begins production it will produce two, three or four times a day for up to 14 months. The machine is then rotated out of production for approximately two months prior to producing another highly valuable product, a close replica of itself that is then managed to become a replacement as older machines go out of production several cycles later. Once an older machine has reached the point where its yield is no longer profitable, the machine parts are harvested and used for valuable products.

The machine’s fluid product feeds the supply chain to other manufacturing operations. It may be packaged as is, or converted into a variety of solid products. The fluid also can be broken down into its components which are prized for use in everything from health and beauty products to pharmaceuticals.

In case you haven’t realized yet, this truly astounding dairy machine is the dairy cow. Because of space limitations, the total operation of the biological production system of the dairy cow and dairy farm were simplified. The point here is to illustrate that dairy farming is not an isolated activity, but a key industry upon which many other industries depend. In truth, farmers treat their dairy cattle as living creatures upon which the success of their businesses rest. But, one can read how the operation of the dairy business is not unlike many other manufacturing operations, except your machine is a living breathing biological system.

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. He is a lifelong Northern New York resident who lives in Lorraine. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.