Technology surrounds us in today’s society, and that doesn’t stop on the farm. For the past several years, farmers in Colorado and beyond have begun embracing new and innovative technology to make their operations more efficient, increase animal comfort and care, and to be more cost-effective. Dairy farmer Jim McClay is a pioneer in agricultural technology.

McClay owns Cottonwood Dairy in Fort Lupton. His parents started the dairy in 1981 with just 60 cows. Today, they have roughly 420 milking cows.

“We average about 91 pounds of milk per day,” McClay says. His milk travels to the local Denver market and into Safeway and Kroger stores.

McClay says he began looking into technological advances to add to the dairy when they were notified of an energy pilot program that would allow them to operate as efficiently as possible financially.

See more: An Eye on Energy Efficiency

“We were part of the pilot for an energy program, and that allowed us to get a plate cooler which uses groundwater,” McClay says.

Photo credit: Jeff Adkins

A plate cooler is used to cool down the milk before it goes into the tank. Typically, milk goes into the tank at 98 degrees and needs to be cooled to 36 degrees. Thanks to the plate cooler, McClay is now able to dump milk into the tank at 64 degrees in the summer and
48 degrees in the winter, which radically reduces the time and energy needed to cool the milk.

“Before we had the plate cooler, we’d turn on the old coolers at 12:45 p.m. and they’d still be running at 8:30 that night,” McClay says. “Now, we turn on the plate cooler at 12:30 p.m. and they’re done by 3.”

The Small Things Add Up

He also added things like a higher-efficiency on-demand water heater that, in tandem with another on-demand water heater, takes the temperature to 180 degrees, along with an industrial-size washing machine.

He also took advantage of technology when he switched all lighting to LED lights, which save a significant amount of energy.

“I try to be as environmentally sound as possible. I want to save energy where I can and not be a wasteful person,” McClay says. “But it has to be cost-effective as well. The plate cooler paid itself off in three months.”

McClay adds that the technology he uses helps with cow comfort as well.

“It makes the cows happier and you get more milk. If you have a bunch of disgruntled employees around here, they’re likely to walk out,” he jokes. “With all the lighting we upgraded, I’m using 75% less in electrical energy. That allows me to use energy elsewhere for cow comfort, and the lighting increases their comfort as well.”

See more: Ag Technology Leads to Smart Farming

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