Barn builder uses slipform machine to speed construction

Scott Spiegelberg, a contractor in Weyauwega, Wis., used to consider building a barn for 50 cows a large project.

But with the surge in corporate dairy farming that began in the 1990s, Spiegelberg and other contractors who specialize in barn construction are working on projects that house from 1,000 to 5,000 cows.

Spiegelberg needed a faster way to build a barn with less labor, and he recently found a slipform paver that does the work crews previously had to do manually.

“These barns are getting so large, and time and labor are major factors,” Spiegelberg says. “With the machine, it takes us one-third to one-half the normal time. We can double our production per day and the machine relieves employee fatigue.”

The Power Curber 8700 creates grooves to prevent the cows from slipping as they walk to and from the building to be milked. Power Curbers’ engineers designed a false pan that creates the grooves as part of the slipform process. The grooves extend the full width of the slab and are 1/2 inch deep, 3/4 inch wide and 4 inches apart. The false pan is designed to clip on the bottom of the existing paver screed.

Spiegelberg says area farmers are astonished with the finished product and the amount of saved time. “If we can speed up the construction two to three weeks, that’s a lot of money in their pocket because of the interest they’re paying,” he says.

There are four walkway alleys in each barn, and they are 7.5 feet apart. After the alleys are finished, workers use the paver in the offset pouring position to slipform beds for the cows. The beds are poured between the alleys and overlap them. The barn’s metal and steel exterior walls are added after the slipformed alleys are in place.

Wire mesh is fed through the front of the machine to ground the cows so they don’t pick up stray voltage that would affect milk production, Spiegelberg says. The wire mesh process slows the machine’s production, he says, and he is working on getting larger rolls. Switching rolls takes 5 to 7 minutes

The barns Spiegelberg builds range from 200 to more than 1,000 feet long. The walkway alleys range from 12 to 14 feet wide, plus the extra width needed for the footing edge.

Spiegelberg Implement Inc. was started by Spiegelberg’s dad, Carl, and will celebrate its 50th year in business in 2005. Spiegelberg, who became owner of the company in 1982, says the 10 to 12 dairy expansions the company builds each year are the most profitable part of his business.

Using a slipform machine will allow the company to take on more work. “We hope to expand in the area and do more of these projects and turn less down,” Spiegelberg says.