Most changes are easy to implement, often require little or no financial investment, and the impacts can be assessed in a few milkings or a few days.
Irrespective of your chosen milking frequency, taking the time to review your system is important, as you repeat the same task hundreds of times each day (e.g. attaching cups). Even small improvements can significantly reduce overall milking time and you don't have to wait till the end of the season to determine the impact. If something hasn't worked, it's easy to change back at the next milking.
Optimising your milking system can provide many benefits:
Increased throughput means shorter milking
Through the Milksmart programme farmers have shown that by focusing on improving milking efficiency it is easy to reduce milkings by 30 minutes and save up to an hour a day. Where milkings are taking 3-5 hours per milking then there is potential to save an hour or more per milking.
Use the Milksmart App to benchmark and review current milking routines to identify if and where there is non-productive time, then change the routine to best suit your situation.
Improved hours of work, better employee satisfaction and staff retention
Shorter milkings and consistent finish times enable greater work hour flexibility. This can lead to longer in bed in the morning, home earlier in the evenings and overall improved work/life balance.
Reduced physical strain and team frustration, resulting in improved cow care and fewer mistakes
Through a combination of improved milking skills and the adoption of an efficient milking routine, there is less wasted time. Milking becomes more logical, easier and more comfortable.
Less mastitis and fewer lame cows
- An efficient milking routine and/or use of correctly set ACRs helps reduce the risk of over-milking related mastitis.
- Efficient routines ensure milkers are positioned correctly to remove cups or where ACRs are used, cut-offs are set at higher thresholds to reduce milking time.
- Shorter milkings also mean that cows spend less time on concrete, a factor known contribute to lameness.
Calmer cows, leading to faster milk-out
Establishing consistent routines for managing the backing gate, loading and exiting cows areas improves cow flow, reduces stress on milkers and cows and leads to calmer cows.
Cortisol, the hormone associated with fear/stress, blocks oxytocin leading to poor milk let down. Implementing a consistent milking routine reduces stress in the herd.
Once cows become accustomed to a routine they flow better, become less flighty, are easier to milk and let down milk more readily.
All changes that improve milking efficiency, for a given number of clusters, can be grouped into two categories:
- Milking duration - the things that affect the time it takes to harvest milk from the cow
- Milking routine - the time it takes to complete the various parts of the milking routine, including any time spent waiting.
On all farms it is possible to make improvements in both categories but as a general rule, if you find yourself with time available (e.g. waiting for slow milking cows) start with cow milking duration, if you find yourself removing clusters from cows with no milk visible in the sight glass, or if ACRs are coming off before you get to them (or coming off before the exit in rotaries) then start with milking routines.
Click the links below to see how you can improve the efficiency of your milking system:
Explore opportunities to refine milking machine settings and implement management strategies to control total herd milking time.
Refine individual components of the milking routine to improve efficiency and reduce milking time.
Moving the herd to and from the dairy, as well as making sure cows are comfortable while entering and exiting the dairy are important parts of the milking process.