Many farmers will admit that they love the work they do but making the most of every day usually means starting at around 4am, and often doesn’t finish until late in the afternoon or early evening. With modern innovations and technologies becoming commonplace across all types of work, dairy farming is no different. So, whether it’s a simple change in technique or the adoption of new equipment, here are some efficiency-improving ideas worth considering.
A worthy investment, that lets your staff and those milking focus on other important jobs, automatic teat sprayers and gate openers are simple yet effective ways to save on teat spray and time. An automatic teat sprayer on the exit race, when setup and running correctly, sprays every cow as she exits the shed. Milkers can focus on milking the cows, and they save energy from not having to walk as far. Installing a pit mirror also lets them check the cows at a glance.
An automatic gate opener can be set to release at a set time and allows the cows to wander back to the shed for milking. This unhurried pace helps reduce lameness and allows staff to meet the cows at the shed saving around an hour in labour each day as no one needs to be out on the bike pushing stock.
Managing your pastures correctly is key to maximising the productivity of your farm, and in the past manual walks using a platemeter or a tow behind pasture meter have been the norm but are labour intensive and time consuming. Currently available in most of Canterbury and parts of the North Island, satellite imagery can be used to give detailed reports of pastures to farmers. Another way you can decrease time out on foot is by using a drone to get an up-close look of your pastures in real-time. Especially where terrain is difficult to navigate or can become water-logged, farmers can use them to check on everything from water levels to fences, gates and animal health.
When it comes to milking routines, traditionally milkers work half a row each; cupping and teat spraying as they go. A more efficient way, however, is to implement the ‘bunny-hopping’ technique; where the first milker cups five cows and the second starts from the sixth. Once the first milker finishes cupping the fifth cow, they ‘bunny-hop’ to the next five. A video to demonstrate this can be found here, and when it’s implemented correctly it’s possible to milk up to 312 cows an hour.
This one’s more for twice a day milkers, but if you use automatic cup removers in your shed, consider changing the timing so that they’re let off earlier. Letting the cups off earlier will leave a little extra milk behind. Studies have shown that leaving an extra 0.3 L of milk in the udder did not increase quarter SCC or clinical mastitis. Making this change to your milking routine reduces the amount of time each cow spends in the shed, allowing you to reduce milking times and finish milking earlier.
To maximise the use of your pastures and to provide a safe solution for your stock in adverse weather, installing the right system can increase the productivity of your farm and provide peace of mind throughout the year. They allow farmers to supply milk through the winter taking advantage of the premiums on offer and by being able to protect your stock in all conditions their health can be better monitored and ensured. To find more information, click here, or to get in touch for more information.