New Dairies and Technology
8 min read
Building and running a dairy is a significant investment. Having the most updated technologies and systems can have a positive and major impact on milking efficiency and the comfort of cows and milkers. Outlined below is helpful information to help you make informed decisions when building a new dairy or installing new technology, which is no easy task. Spending time to deeply consider your layouts and design choices will save you a significant amount of time and money later on.
Dairy infrastructure can have a major impact on milking efficiency and the comfort of cows and milkers. Upgrading an existing dairy or installing a new dairy are big projects that often require a large outlay.
A decision to change the dairy should be based on a genuine need for improved infrastructure. It should be financially viable and support the achievement of the farm’s goals.
Generally, a change in the milk harvesting system cannot be assessed in isolation from the rest of the farm business. A major upgrade or a new dairy is not 'just a shed' but has implications for the whole farm system.
Ask yourself - is it time for an upgrade?
The motivation for undertaking a major change may come from a number of sources such as:
It is important to be very clear about what is motivating the desire for a change and to have a focused picture of the farm goals. If the primary goal is to increase disposable income there may be other ways to achieve this without undertaking a major building project.
Not all of a farmer’s goals will be financially motivated but every decision made on the farm has a financial implication. The implications of building a new dairy need to be analysed from many different angles so the risks of financial failure are kept to a minimum and financial targets are reached.
Here are some other things to consider:
The rotary and the herringbone are the two main dairy designs used in New Zealand. If well designed, both rotary and herringbones can provide a productive working environment that is both cow and milker friendly.
When deciding on dairy type it is important to start by defining what you require from your farm dairy, and then select the dairy which best suits your needs. Around 67% of New Zealand dairy farms have herringbone dairies, while 33% have rotary dairies. Rotary dairies make up the majority of new platform installations and have a higher number of technologies installed (DairyNZ Technology and Workplace Practices Survey 2023).
As the life of a dairy is at least 25 years, when building a new dairy it is important to give a lot of consideration to the size, particularly with rotaries as they do not lend themselves to expansion.
When considering the optimum number of clusters the following should be taken into account:
Planning is important to ensure that you get a dairy which suits the needs of your business and the people in it.
The optimum cluster number in a dairy is dependent on cluster throughput in relation to milker throughput. It needs to be recognised that at the upper limits people are working to a high level of efficiency which they may not be able to maintain. Also that whatever limit is suggested there will be farmers gearing up to exceed it!
Although other critical factors include availability of capital, perception on practical milking times and personal preference, a key driver for dairy size should be efficiency of labour utilisation.
It was once thought that people could only milk about 10 rows of cows in a herringbone without getting tired and also needed to leave enough ‘free time’ to do the rest of the farm work. Now there are dedicated milkers doing little other farm work.
In this situation it is best that milkers are rostered in shifts so that although the milking time may be extended – thereby making more efficient use of capital - individual milkers are not working for prolonged periods of time.
Note that it is still possible and desirable to provide work of varying responsibility and variety to relieve monotony; to help create interest and challenge.
When considering labour in relation to dairy size, think about the following points not only with present staffing in mind but for the future:
The use of automation can have a large impact on labour efficiency and the sizing of the dairy.
Automatic cluster removal and automatic teat spraying on a rotary can remove the need for a person at the clusters-off position for much of the lactation period. In herringbones, it removes the risk of over-milking and makes it possible to extend herringbones to about 30 clusters and still be managed by one milker. Automatic teat spraying in herringbones also makes milking easier.
Automatic drafting is becoming the norm in all large dairies, herringbone or rotary, due to labour savings and stress-reducing attributes.
|Dairy Type||Maximum cluster numbers*|
|Herringbone||Without automation||With automation|
|1 person||18-22 clusters||up to 30|
|2 people||26-44 clusters||up to 50|
|Rotary||Without automation||With automation|
|2 people||50-60||up to 80|
For a more detailed examination of techniques to use when sizing a new farm dairy see the document below “Sizing a dairy”.
Start with your requirements then choose the dairy to meet these. When deciding on a new dairy give yourself time to gather information and advice. Good planning will ensure that you get a dairy which fits all your requirements.
With the range of skills needed in developing a new dairy, advice is needed from several different sources. These include: dairy builders, the local authority, milking machine companies etc. In particular, consider the benefit of specialists in milk harvesting who may have a better understanding of the details of design and their impact on cow flow. Allow plenty of time to analyse, double check and test any advice.