In 2012, construction began on Uruguay’s first modern free stall dairy farm on a very large scale. Estancias del Lago is being constructed after four years of exhaustive research, visiting farms, and many professional consultations.
A team lead by two local experts and several assistants has put together an operation that within one year will see 10,500 cows (milking and dry) housed in fourteen separate barns of 750 head each. There will also be a central barn housing maternity and special needs cows. In addition, there will be calf barns, a milk processing plant, a manure digester, a power plant, and a full cropping program with pivot irrigation water supplied from a man-made lake.
The “Estancias del Lago” farm is situated near the town of Durazno in the Uruguay interior, about 220 kilometres north of Montevideo. This project is distinctive because it is adopting a large-scale free stall production model rather than the more traditional pasture-grazing system. This will promote a more efficient use of land, energy, and water compared to the traditional system currently common to Uruguay.
Stage One of construction consisted of the first of two eighty-head rotary parlours and the central maternity area with a double twenty parallel parlour. Stage Two is building four of the free stall barns. This project is expected to create as many as 400 jobs during construction and another 314 once the facility is fully operational.
This operation will be processing all of the milk into powder, on site, for the export market – a volume which will amount to about twelve percent of the country’s current powdered milk exports.
The operation will also feature a digester with the intent to produce self-sufficient power to run the milk powder plant. This facility is situated on 3000 hectares and is part of a larger 30,000 hectares land holding in different countries by Argentinean and unnamed investors.
Artex Barn Solutions is supplying the free stall loops, self locks, manual lockers for the maternity pens, Aqua Dumps, raised Calf Zone pens, and circulation fans. The Calf Zone pens, in particular, were designed especially for this project. The floor is raised off the ground on durable plastic slats that are easily cleaned and managed. These are available to the world market now, in addition to the traditional Calf Zone system.
In March 2013, Artex completed a week of training on site with crews of local Uruguayan workers. The first animals were raised on one of the affiliated farms nearby and arrived in May and June of 2013.