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Timeline

A detailed timeline to start-up or calendar of events helps everyone involved anticipate the challenges and makes the transition from conventional farming to an AMS free from unpleasant ‘surprises'...

6-12 months before start-up

People

  • Consider family or other factors that may affect the timing of the start-up.
  • If possible, schedule holidays now so no one is due for leave during the months either side of start-up.
  • If you and/or your staff are not familiar with computers, start taking lessons now.

Herd

  • Plan the breeding program so you achieve the desired calving spread leading into the commissioning period.
  • You may consider spreading the calving pattern to ease the work load during start-up or to make more efficient use of the milking units in the longer term.

Facilities

  • Facilities Plan the construction and/or renovations needed to accommodate the AMS units.
  • Ensure that all required services are available eg: phone line for robots to generate alerts, suitable power supplies - check phase and voltage with manufacturer.
  • Ensure the “old” milk harvesting equipment is maintained properly until its decommissioning.

Other Considerations

  • It is not worth the heartache of starting the AMS dairy with a high level of mastitis. It is false economy to reduce the frequency of liner changes or cut back on machine maintenance or servicing of the conventional dairy leading up to the AMS commissioning.
  • It may also be worth developing networks with other AMS users to learn from their experiences.
  • Your AMS supplier should be able to put you in contact with other farmers that have installed AMS units.

3-6 months before start-up

People

  • All staff to be involved should start getting familiar with management software and basic touch screen operations.

Herd

  • Identify chronically infected cows with contagious mastitis (Staph aureus) and resolve herd mastitis problems prior to start-up. Do the same for lame cows and any other sick cows should also be treated prior to start-up.
  • Start udder shaving or singeing as it is best not carried out when the cows first enter the milking unit - it adds to the stress cows may be already experiencing.
  • Tail trimming and udder singeing can often be carried out efficiently in a conventional milking parlour.

Facilities

  • Read equipment and software manuals.
  • Follow up any queries with equipment supplier.

Other Considerations

  • Pre-selecting cows based on udder conformation is not recommended.
  • Different brands of machines cope with different udder conformations so it is not possible to make general, blanket recommendations. Instead, bring all types of udders to the AMS dairy and let the machines tell you what conformations are not suitable. This saves time and the unnecessary culling of some cows.

1-3 months before start-up

People/Facilities

    • Read your AMS manual and become familiar with:
    • All safety precautions.
    • Start, restart and shut down functions.
    • Switching machine between automatic and manual modes.
    • Using management programmes and touch screens.
    • Management of milk cooling and milk collection/tank cleaning procedures.
    • Finalise daily routines and procedures for handling alarms.

Other Considerations

  • It is worth being aware though that there may be a small proportion of cows whose udders are not suitable – just as is the case in any dairy operation.

1-2 weeks before start-up

Where possible ensure that all aspects of the new installation are completed prior to introducing the cows into the system. Incomplete buildings, laneways and/or surrounding infrastructure will make your life more difficult and introduction more stressful for the cows.

Herd

  • Think about the likely grazing rotations for start-up week.
  • Consider changing the time of milking routines, to help cows start falling out of their twice-daily milking habits.
  • Where possible allow cows to start moving through the new dairy and maybe access feed in the milking unit.
  • Allow cows to explore and become experienced with one-way gates. Free movement from the paddock to the dairy may also be helpful.

People

  • Sort out a work roster but make sure everyone is prepared to help out. Flexibility is critical to cope well with the unforeseen.
  • Ensure all staff are well rested and prepared for the start-up.
  • Thorough start-up planning results in the best chance of a smooth and relatively stress-free commissioning of the new dairy.

Other considerations:

  • Thorough start-up planning results in the best chance of a smooth and relatively stress-free commissioning of the new dairy.
  • Be informed, prepare for the worst but expect the best, and ensure that your staff are prepared and guided.
  • If the new dairy is in a different location to the old dairy then carefully consider which paddocks should be grazed
    during the initial stages of the commissioning.
    • If cows are grazing close to the old dairy then you may find that they stand at a gate trying to head in that direction. Choose paddocks with orientations and locations that minimise the impact of this to assist with the adaptation period.
    • If you are expecting cows to enter and exit paddocks from gates in locations that they have never used before, don’t be surprised if you find the herd waiting at the old exit gateway even when the feed in the paddock is well and truly depleted!