Dairy family made upgrades with environment, farm’s future in mind

The Flory family is farming futuristically with robotic milking stalls and a closed-loop flush system that allows them to recycle and help the environment.

Laura and Scott Flory farm with Scott’s parents, Dale and Janet Flory, who started the dairy herd in 1980. The dairy is located on land that Janet’s family has farmed for 200 years, and Scott is the eighth generation of his family to work that land. Today the Florys milk 200 cows and grow alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat on about 800 acres.

Laura and Scott, who both hold degrees in dairy science from Virginia Tech, joined the family business after graduating in 2009. Dale and Janet had been farming full time since 1979.

Rather than repair their former barns and milking parlor a few years ago, the family decided to double the size of their herd, build a new barn and refurbish their heifer and dry cow facilities.

The younger generation thought updating the dairy would help them increase productivity, protect the environment and cut down on labor. They traveled around the United States looking for a system that would work on their farm.

In 2013 they began construction of a free-stall barn with a robotic milking system, as well as a new calving barn.

Inside the free-stall barn, the dairy cows lie on sand beds, and water is flushed through three alleyways on a rotating schedule. Each alley is flushed every four hours. The alleys carry water, waste and extra sand to underground channels that move everything downhill to a storage area.

The sand settles in a concrete lane, the solid waste is screened out andthe remaining liquid is mixed with rainwater and used to re-flush the barn.

Any excess wastewater is stored in a lagoon pit for use as liquid fertilizer.

Wet sand is scooped out daily and allowed to dry before it’s re-used in the barn.

The Florys allow the manure to dry before fertilizing crop fields with it.

The flushing system, which works with gravity, reduces the farm’s amount of needed machinery, provides a higher concentration of nutrients to the fields and keeps the animals and the barn clean. And because the sand is inorganic, it won’t grow bacteria as long as the waste is removed from it.

“We are proud of how we’re taking care of our animals and also doing things that are better for the environment,” Laura Flory said. “We’re enjoying our dairy career more now than ever before.”

In addition to farming, Laura and Scott are members of the Pulaski County Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee, and Laura serves as the committee’s chairman. They also are involved with the Dairy Farmers of America Young Cooperators program, and Laura serves on the New River Valley Fair board.

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