When long working hours on-farm become the norm, stress, fatigue and resentment can start to dominate daily routines. Often, sharemilkers or staff will move on to another farm where the work-life balance is better. On most dairy farms, milking accounts for more than 50 percent of staff hours – so it makes sense to target that area for efficiency, as savings can significantly reduce total hours worked.
That’s why consultant Josh Wheeler (a recognised Milksmart expert from QCONZ) has been contracted by DairyNZ to work directly with farmer discussion groups and provide Milksmart workshops for rural professionals (see other related articles from this issue of Inside Dairy).
His aim is to help farmers understand the value of DairyNZ’s Milksmart efficiency programme and other similar approaches, such as DairyNZ’s MaxT milking strategy. With MaxT, cows are milked to a maximum time – one that will shorten milking time for up to the slowest 20 percent of cows.
“Any dairy farmers who can provide better working hours for themselves and their team are more likely to attract and retain staff,” says Josh. “Demand is outstripping the supply of suitable people for on-farm roles, partly because unemployment across the country is only four percent.
“On farms where milking times are more than three hours, staff are waking before 4 a.m. to go and get the cows. That’s hard on the body, getting up at that time. So, if they can become more efficient at milking and start closer to 5 a.m., everyone can get a bit more time in bed. That’s one of the main ‘buy-ins’ for many farmers and their staff.
“Implementing MaxT’s milking strategy has been shown to be the most efficient way to milk cows. I’ve found that on-farm, MaxT provides benefits that are not only good for people, but also for cow health and the business’s bottom line.”
Josh has worked with plenty of farmers using Milksmart and MaxT who’ve saved between one to two hours a milking (or two to four hours a day if milking twice daily). The team can also plan around milking with more accuracy, thanks to more consistent finishing times.
“Farmers talk about ‘labour saving’, but they’re not looking to cut back on labour. It’s about redirecting it, so they don’t need to add extra time onto the day to get other jobs done. It also frees up more time for better decision-making and for family, community and other non-work activities.”
- See the other articles in this issue to find out more about the benefits of putting efficiency at the heart of your farm’s milking routines – and visit dairynz.co.nz/milking
- To find out what a great workplace looks like as outlined in DairyNZ's Sustainable Dairy Workplace Action Plan – visit dairynz.co.nz/wap
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy October 2019