The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 19, 2009

New barn takes shape at Great Brook Farm State Park

Construction of the long-planned modern milking barn at Great Brook Farm State Park began in early June. Limited state funding has, however, led to a scaled down version of the original design, with only some of the features funded to date. (See Carlisle Mosquito, April 3, 2009, “Great Brook Farm State Park seeks funding for new dairy barn.”) The schedule for completion will depend on when all the funding is in place.



During an interview at the barn site, farmer Mark Duffy enthusiastically described the project. The new barn will be 86 feet wide and 170 feet long, expandable by another 130 feet. There will be an attached milk room and public viewing area. A manure storage tank will sit adjacent to the barn. It will hold enough waste to eliminate the need for transporting it along roads to the cornfields in freezing weather, which has led to some neighborhood concerns in recent years.

Robotic milking system

This state-of-the-art dairy barn has a ”free-stall” design where the cows can move around at will, and includes the first robotic milking system in Massachusetts. The barn will have 110 stalls and a pen for isolating cows when needed, e.g. for calving. It is designed to provide natural temperature control and ventilation. The end walls will be solid and the side walls open, with inflatable air tubes to hold heat inside in cold weather.

Two robot units are planned, each about the size of a station wagon. Individual cows will be electronically tagged and “smart” gates will control their access to the milking units, which they are motivated to visit by both the need for milking and the reward of grain. Laser-guided hoses will attach to and milk the cows, and the milk output for each cow automatically logged.

Mark and Tamma Duffy are in their 22nd year of farming in Carlisle. They run the dairy operation and ice cream stand at the State Park, farm the town’s Cranberry Bog, and grow corn and hay. For nearly three years the Duffys have worked with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) (which runs the state park system), the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and dairy design experts to plan an efficient facility that also lets visitors observe and learn about the dairy operation.

Much of the work is funded through the fiscal year 2009 state budget, but some components, including the milking robots and the manure storage facility, require separate funding which is not yet in place. The scaled-down barn will not hold all of the farm’s milking cows. The current barn, now 60 years old, will continue to house the remainder, along with younger animals. DCR has funded a pilot project at the farm for handling milk room waste – an environmentally sound approach to recycling “gray” water.

Duffy voiced his gratitude for the support of state agencies and the residents of Carlisle for this project that will keep dairy farming viable at the State Park: “I would like to thank all the people who have helped make this barn a reality. We are not done yet, but this is a critical component in keeping agricultural production local.”

Mark Duffy has long been active in efforts to sustain farming in Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick recently appointed him to a task force created under the 2008 State Dairy Revitalization Act that will focus on the application of modern technology to dairy farming. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito