Milking shed water use


4 min read

Milk cooling efficiency Reducing plant and vat wash Improving yard washing Other water saving tips Additional resources

A lot of water is used in the milking shed. Efficient processes for milk cooling, vat wash, and yard hosing can add up to significant savings in water. This page provides tips for identifying opportunities to reduce water use and improve water efficiency during milking.

Milk cooling efficiency

  • The primary milk cooling system should use two to three litres of water for every litre of milk cooled. If there is a continuous flow of water when milk is coming through the cooler intermittently, more water is being used than necessary. To reduce this water use, a solenoid valve can be installed at the inlet to the cooler and linked to the milk pump or a variable flow drive so that water and milk flow match.
  • Use correct flow rates through the plate cooler (2-3 litres water: 1 litre milk). Increasing water volume does not decrease water temperature. Check the ratio here.
  • Ensure the plate cooler is serviced regularly and has adequate pumps and water storage to function efficiently. Cleaning and improving the efficiency of plate cooling will require the services of a technician who can align the plate’s spacings correctly.
  • Pre-cooling water before it enters the shed can improve water use efficiency as less water is needed to cool milk. However, this can have an impact on energy use in the sheds. Find out more about milk cooling systems.
  • Recycle cooler water. If you have once-through cooler water in excess of what's needed for yard washdown, consider installing a tank close to the shed to store the excess. This water can be used later for yard washdown or reticulated down the farm as stock water.

A tank close to the shed for storage of excess cooler water.

Reducing plant and vat wash water

  • Ensure all refill tanks and cylinders have an automatic shut-off to avoid overflows. Toilet cisterns or trough floats have been used as proven refill and shut off options.
  • Hot water used for plant clean-up can be reused for any cleaning around the dairy shed (e.g. washing out buckets, or washing machines) saving electricity and water.

Improving yard washing

  • On warm, sunny days, pre-wet the yard with a hose or sprinkler to help prevent dung from sticking.
  • Use a scraper or a chain (inside an old yard hose) on the backing gate to break up dung before hosing.
  • Consider a flood-wash system or under-backing gate wash.

Under backing gate wash system.

  • Wash the yard after each milking.
  • Work the hose water actively and close to the effluent.
  • Hose the yard with high water volume under low pressure so you are pushing effluent not spraying it around.
  • Include a timer setting on the yard wash-down pump. Set a time standard for wash-down and train staff to achieve it.
  • Flood wash with green water recycled from the effluent pond. This practice has strict compliance requirements under the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s Code of Practice for the Design and Operation of Farm Dairies (NZCP1). If you are recycling green water, get advice from your dairy company representative to ensure you are compliant with terms and conditions of supply.

Other water saving tips

Liquid ring vacuum pumps
Half of the water from liquid ring vacuum pumps can be recycled (if the temperature is less than 40°C) and half captured for yard wash. Check the manufacturer’s specifications for your pump as the temperature of the water needs to remain below specific values.

Rotaries Spray nozzles operating  in milking plant
Minimise the number of nozzles in the milking shed and consider using water blaster nozzles to reduce flows. Check nozzles for corrosion which can lead to increased water flow. Have smooth easy-to-clean surfaces in the milking shed and use scrapers to wipe effluent off the rotary to speed up wash down. Consider air blasts or other methods such as floating plastic toys, instead of water to get cows to back off.

Choosing the right system
Get water-use specifications from the manufacturer if installing a new system. Commercial yard washers and clean flood water washing are time efficient but can use a lot of water. Weigh up staff time, power costs and water use when choosing an efficient system for the milking shed.

Calculating effluent volumes
Reducing the volume of water used for yard wash down can significantly reduce effluent storage requirements. The Dairy Effluent Storage Calculator is a tool to determine the dairy effluent storage requirements for a dairy farm.

Capture and use rainwater
Rainwater from the dairy shed roof that drains onto the yard enters the effluent system. Capturing this rainwater by diverting the gutters into a tank reduces the volume of effluent you have to manage and store. It also provides water for yard wash-downs, reducing the amount of fresh water required from your main supply.

Track and Yard washdown by farm worker during milking.

Look out for overflows
Be vigilant to tanks or cylinders losing water and get everyone on farm into the habit of watching for problems. Installing an auto shut-off wherever possible will eliminate this risk of water loss.

Daily check on pressure of water at the taps and hoses
Low water pressure at taps and hoses can alert you to water loss in the system. On some farms, water pressure in the house may be affected by water use out on the farm. This can be a helpful sign any time day or night.

Tank floats
Tank floats should be set far enough down from the top that overflows are avoided. Check your tanks and make adjustments where necessary.

Last updated: Apr 2024

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