Many strategies to improve milking efficiency can be achieved without any additional cost. Flow on benefits include reduced electricity costs and water use.
Saving time in the cowshed means you can get home earlier or reallocate time to other tasks like pasture management to improve returns.
Saving time in rotaries
Wasted time in rotary dairies is generally caused by waiting time when the platform is rotating at a slower speed than the milker can comfortably cup at. Poor cow flow can also create wasted time when the milker constantly has to stop cupping to push cows up.
Platform rotation time should be set based on what is comfortable for the milker – don’t slow the platform down because there are ‘go-around cows’ (cows that require a second rotation to finish milking).
If you find you have waiting time in between cupping, the platform can be sped up.
While it has been a long held belief in the industry that the rotation time should be set so that no more than 10 percent of cows require a second rotation, research shows that the number of go-around cows doesn’t decrease efficiency and 15-20 percent is closer to the optimum number. For a 500 cow herd, this means 75-100 cows can go around twice.
Saving time in herringbones
To save time in a herringbone, the goal is to release the head gate somewhere near the mid-point of the pit so cows can exit while the remaining cups can be swung over to the next row. This shortens or removes the exiting time from a milker’s work routine time.
If two people are milking, the most efficient way of doing this is if the milkers begin working in the front half (exit end) of the pit, working their way down the row ‘bunny hopping’ each other in batches of four to six cows.
By both milkers working in the front half of the pit to begin with, the point at which the head gate can be released is reached twice as fast compared to if the second milker had remained in the back half of the pit. This routine is illustrated in an animation at dairynz.co.nz/herringbone-routine.
Maximum milking time
MaxT is another strategy to minimise waiting time that can be applied in both herringbones and rotaries. It is particularly useful in a herringbone if you are regularly waiting for slow milking cows to finish milking.
MaxT requires cows to be milked to a pre-determined endpoint – either to a fixed time point when approximately 80 percent of cows would have completed milking, or a set milkflow rate threshold if you have automatic cluster removers that are unable to apply a maximum milking time.
Research has demonstrated MaxT can be applied with no loss of milk yield and no increase in mastitis or somatic cell count. Some additional milk is left behind in the udder when the cups are removed early, however this milk is just deferred to the next milking where it can be harvested more efficiently.
MaxT is easy to apply in a herringbone; perform the normal routine and don’t wait for the last 20 percent of cows to finish milking, i.e. don’t wait to remove the last eight clusters in a 40-aside.
In a rotary, the appropriate MaxT time for the herd is determined by the herd milk yield for the fortnight. This can be looked up from the MaxT table online – it’s easiest to do this from peak lactation onwards when the yield is known. This then becomes the rotation time with no cows being allowed to goaround twice. (If you are going to have go-around cows, 15-20 percent is more efficient than 5-10 percent, but it’s even more efficient to remove them completely.)
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy October 2015