Flexible Milking, Ed Von Randow (North Otago)


13 min read

Farm facts Pilot farm flexible milking times Update: 25 April 2021 Update: 1 March 2021 Update: 21 December 2020 Update: 9 November 2020 Update: 14 September 2020

Craigmore Farms' in North Otago is shifting to a 3-in-2 milking schedule for the 2020/21 season at Waiareka farm to improve staff hours and reduce the time cows spend off feed without affecting milk production. The page provides detailed updates from the farm manager, Jeet, regarding various aspects of farm management, including pregnancy rates, grass growth, production tracking, expenses, staffing, and plans for the next season. Changes in practices, production statistics, and general observations on the farm's progress and challenges during different periods of the season are also outlined.

Craigmore Farms’ Oamaru manager, Ed von Randow oversees five dairy farms in North Otago.

In the 2020/21 season, Waiareka farm will be making the shift to full season 3-in-2 milking. We will be following Waiareka farm as part of the project.

For Ed, joining the flexible milking project is all about identifying ways that they can improve staff hours and reduce the time cows spend off feed. They see 3-in-2 milking as an opportunity to achieve this without having the negative impacts on milk production seen in OAD.

Farm profile




Oamaru, Otago


745 crossbred cows

Farm size:



400kg MS/cow

Imported feed:

700kg/cow imported feed




4 full time equivalents (188 cows/FTE)


7-2, 7-2, 7-3

Milking regime 2020/21:

Full season 3-in-2

Pilot farm flexible milking times

Update: 25 April 2021

Waiareka Farm

Fortnight ending 14 Mar 28 Mar 11 Apr 25 Apr YTD
APC 2350 2411 2408 2350
Rotation Length (days) 30 35 35 40
Supplement fed (kgDM/cow/d) 3 3 4 5
N Applied 80 kg urea/ha, whole farm 80 kg urea/ha, 2/3 of farm+ 200 ml/ha ProGibb
% Peak cows in milk 95% 95% 92% 91%
kgMS/cow 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.2 370
kgMS/ha 1344
SCC 106 105 117 147 137
Mastitis (# cases) 1 1 2 1 69
Lameness 1 6 3 42
Total hours worked/week* 157 170 152 172
Average hours milking/d 3.4 3.2 3.2 3.6 3.5

*Figures averaged over fortnight where possible
*YTD kgMS/cow is calculated over peak cow numbers
*Total hours worked is for all staff for the week

Jeet's comments (farm manager)

  • We had our second pregnancy scan which confirmed a 10% empty rate, down from 14% last season. A good result to go with the 73% 6wk In-calf rate reported in the last update (up from 68% last year)
  • Grass growth is on track with what we need for the feed budget at 40 kg DM/ha/d last week. APC is also on track for dry-off target.
  • Production is still tracking 1.5% ahead of last season to date, this month we are 1% behind, probably due to having fed more PKE last year. For comparison, the North Otago district average is 0.9% ahead of last year for the season.
  • Average BCS is 4.7. Last season we milked through to 10-June, with some cows dried off at the end of May. We hope to do something similar this season. We dried half a dozen cows off last week due to low production but no plans to dry off any more at this point.
  • We are back to a full complement of staff, although two are moving on to other farms within the company next season.
  • Overall, I am very happy with how the season has progressed, we are ahead on production, have increased our 6-week in calf rate and decreased our empty rate, have a lower SCC and less mastitis and expenses are tracking below last year despite needing to spend $34,000 on feed and track maintenance after the summer flood. Forecast expenses are $4.95/kgMS.
  • We have had some discussion about plans for next year. The company has set a target of $4.75/kgMS for farm working expenses next season. To achieve this would require an additional 10,000 kgMS, so we are discussing whether it would be possible to achieve this by milking TAD through to the start of January. Alternatively, because cluster removers are being installed, we could run the farm with 3 people instead of 4, which could be attractive given the challenge of finding staff.

Update: 1 March 2021

Waiareka Farm

Fortnight ending 3 Jan 17 Jan 31 Jan 14 Feb 28 Feb YTD
APC 2147 2108 2261 2246 2297
Rotation Length (days)
Supplement fed (kgDM/cow/d) 3 3 3 2 2
N Applied Yes Yes
% Peak cows in milk 97% 97% 97% 97% 95%
kgMS/cow 1.53 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 308
kgMS/ha 1118
SCC 113 125 114 107 100 147
Mastitis (# cases) 2 11 6 0 62
Lameness 5 3 3 1 30
Total hours worked/farm/week* 174 141 163 162 125
Average hours milking/d 3.4 3.5 3.4 3.4 3.3 3.6

*Figures averaged over fortnight where possible
*YTD kgMS/cow is calculated over peak cow numbers
*Total hours worked is for all staff for the week

Jeet's Comments (farm manager)

  • We had our first pregnancy tests in January, coming out with 73% 6wk In-calf rate, up from 68% last year. Heifers scanned at 5% not-in-calf; these were 100% naturally mated.
  • Grass growth and quality are pretty good at the moment. We had some good rain around Christmas.
  • Over new years, part of the farm flooded, which meant that we could only utilise part of the platform, and subsequent pasture quality in the flooded paddocks has been relatively low. This held back our production over January, but the cows seem to have recovered now, holding production. As a result of the flooding and wet weather, we have seen an increase in lameness – a combination of washed-out tracks and soft feet from standing on wet ground all day.
  • We had our second herd test in January – a single sample on our midday milking – this worked quite well compared with the evening milking in Dec, as it gave us time to pack up and clean the gear after milking without it being a late night.
  • SCC has been lower this year, particularly over Jan & Feb – key changes here are pulling out any high SCC cows (identified through herd testing) and putting these in the peno mob which get milked last.
  • We also have more stable staff this year, which has helped us to have better systems and accountability in place to identify and pull out any cows with mastitis earlier.
  • We are 1.3% up on production season to date, and 4.5% up for February.
    • Contributing to this production increase in comparison to last year, we have also been feeding PKE through the shed, which was re-introduced during the flooding to ensure the cows had adequate energy intakes, and this is still being used.
  • We still have 91 calves on farm, which is the first year we have had this. The aim of keeping these from the wider business is to help reduce FWE. We have the same cow numbers as last year, but are not putting fodder beet on-platform, which has freed up a small amount of pasture to help provide additional feed for the calves.
  • Despite having the calves on farm, more silage has been cut this season compared to last. We have pushed cows harder this year to meet post-grazing residuals, and therefore have had better quality pasture & growth conditions which may have led to some of this increase.
  • We have had 1 staff member leave recently and have got a replacement lined up for March/April. We did not actually require additional staff for our day-to-day work at that time, so we chose to delay the start date of new staff until we get busier on the farm, which will help keep our overall costs down.
  • Staff still seem happy with the system – we are all getting good breaks at the moment aiming for an 8am start and 4pm finish on our OAD day, and a break between 11-4 on our TAD day, wherever possible.

Update: 21 December 2020

Waiareka Farm

Fortnight ending 22 Nov 6 Dec 20 Dec YTD
APC 2300 2183 2098
Rotation Length (days) 24 22 22
Supplement fed (kgDM/cow/d) 0 0 0.5
N Applied Yes No No
% Peak cows in milk 97% 97% 97%
kgMS/cow 1.66 1.64 1.7 208*
kgMS/ha 756
SCC 132 131 96 157
Mastitis (# cases) 0 7 4 43
Lameness 1 3 2 18
Total hours worked/farm/week 211 187
Average hours milking/d 3.9 3.7 3.5 3.6

*Figures averaged over fortnight where possible
*YTD kgMS/cow is calculated over peak cow numbers
*Total hours worked is for all staff for the week

Jeet's Comments (farm manager)

  • We have had small amounts of rain every few weeks, which has helped to keep good quality feed coming through. This has allowed minimal supplements to be used in comparison to last year, with only a small amount going in during early mating for 1 week to help extend the round length and build cover.
  • We are applying N fert every ~35 days at an average of ~30kgN/ha.
  • We also have 200 calves still on farm, in comparison to them being moved to graziers on 5 Nov last year, which has increased our feed demand, but has been manageable with good growth and quality this year.
  • Cows are producing around 1.7kgMS/cow/day, which is the highest production this farm has had for this time of year.
  • We are currently up on production both season and month to date.
  • 3week submission rate came in at 88%, up 4% on last year. Bulls will be removed between Christmas and new years and we are doing an early age scan on 20th
  • Cow condition is better than it was at this time last year, and is the best condition of all the farms in our group of 5 farms, sitting at 4.6 herd average (paddock scoring).
  • Staff management has been going well, with less hours worked than this time last year. Have managed to reintroduce the early finishes, however still no morning sleep ins as we need 3 people in the shed to help draft bulls etc.
  • We have much more flexibility in break times and finish times with this milking system, the person who doesn’t have to do the afternoon milking can take as long of a lunch as they like and then come back and finish their jobs – so can have 2 hours and finish around 5.30pm or can have shorter or longer breaks to work in with their home life.
  • We have had more time this season to manage thistles and maintain a tidy farm, which has been noted by those visiting the farm.

Update: 9 November 2020

Waiareka Farm

Fortnight ending 11 Oct 25 Oct 8 Nov YTD
APC 2244 2226 2228
Rotation Length (days) 25 25 24
Supplement fed (kgDM/cow/d) 2 1 0
N Applied Yes
% Peak cows in milk 100% 100% 97%
kgMS/cow 1.9 1.8 1.7
kgMS/ha 519
SCC 154 143 122 161
Mastitis (# cases) 7 1 0 32
Lameness 0 1 0 11
Total hours worked/farm/week 182 195 200
Average hours milking/d 4.2 3.9 4.5 3.6

*Figures averaged over fortnight where possible
*Cows in milk is calculated as total calved at the end of the fortnight
*YTD kgMS/cow is calculated over peak cow numbers
*Total hours worked is for all staff for the week

Farm Manager Comments

  • Total production season to date is up on last year, which we have put down to better management, being my second season on this farm and a better feed situation going into calving.
    • Feels that the more Jersey type cows have adapted better to the 3-in-2 timing than the more Friesian type cows.
    • Per cow production has pulled back slightly over the last couple of weeks, which is typical of previous seasons around mating, once we have passed the peak.
  • The 3-in-2 milking has still been going good, and staff are still enjoying this system. Over mating we haven’t been able to do our regular sleep-ins/early finishes that we included as part of the roster, as we need all people in the shed every milking, which they have found a little bit harder, but we will start again once AI has finished.
  • Mating:
    • For AI, we are mating after every milking with our local AI tech. We looked at holding the evening milking nearby overnight and mating the next morning, however, our tech preferred to come out in the evening and do them then, which works well for us also.
    • We are running 95 cows with the bull from day 1 – our cows earmarked to cull/those that we do not want to breed from.
    • Of the remaining cows eligible for submission, we have submitted 34% in week 1, and 60% in week 2, up slightly on last years submissions.
    • Have found it a little bit harder for mating this year, as I need to be in the shed for every milking that I am rostered on to pick the cows, whereas on TAD you could do the morning milking and then be free for the rest of the day to complete other jobs.
  • Overall, I have found that 3-in-2 has freed up both time and my mind to work on other jobs as there is less time tied to the shed.
  • We have taken out 34ha for baleage so far (over two cuts) and grass growth has been relatively good to date – things are getting a bit drier, so some more rain would be good to help give things a boost.
  • Mastitis cases increased in late September, compared with earlier in the season but has dropped right back again during October.
  • We have also sent some early culls off-farm, including black mastitis, high SCC cows and empty cows, leaving us with 720 cows in milk. This puts us to a stocking rate around 3.5cows/ha which is where we would like to be, particularly as this will increase for a period when we do regrassing.

Update: 14 September 2020

Waiareka Farm

Fortnight ending 16 Aug 30 Aug 13 Sept 27 Sept YTD
APC 2350 2350 2285 2290
Rotation Length (days) 95 80 64 48
Supplement fed (kgDM/cow/d) 2 2 2 1
N Applied Yes Yes Yes Yes
% Peak cows in milk 50% 73% 85% 88% 88%
kgMS/cow 1 1.3 1.6 1.9 64
kgMS/ha 234
SCC 226 203 180 163 183
Mastitis (# cases) 8 8 3 3 22
Lameness 3 4 1 3 11
Total hours worked/farm/week 233 229 208 200
Average hours milking/d 1.3 2.9 3.8 4.3

*Figures averaged over fortnight where possible
*Cows in milk is calculated as total calved at the end of the fortnight
*YTD kgMS/cow is calculated over peak cow numbers
*Total hours worked is for all staff for the week

Farm Manager Comments

  • Now that we are a couple of months into the season, the team are really starting to enjoy the new routine. We have made the following changes to our routine/roster from the original plan:
    • Cups on at 5AM, 5PM and 11AM (as opposed to 6, 6 & 12)
    • Reduced down to the minimum number of people for early morning milking and evening milking, giving 1 extra person a sleep-in or early finish on days with 2 milkings
    • Rostered so that if you have early finish on TAD, then you start 7AM on the day with 1 milking (others 8AM)
    • People are averaging around 18 hours worked over 2 days – generally 10-8 split
  • Staff really seem to be enjoying the 3-in-2, particularly with the more recent tweaks to the daily routine.
  • I have also been able to have more breaks – both during that day and days off – than I have in previous years.
  • We started off milking the colostrums OAD, but found we had issues with blood in the milk form some extended periods between milking (was >24hours every other day):
    • We have changed to milking these 3-in-2 behind the main herd and this has hugely decreased the blood in the milk.
  • We have also done some fencing in the paddocks nearer the shed to make more smaller paddocks, which have been great for colostrums over calving, and we also plan to use these over mating (see comments below).
  • We have had less mastitis so far this year, but there does appear to be a few cases starting to come through now:
    • As well as less mastitis cases, the cows have also responded well to treatments.
  • Last year the heifers were run separately as a OAD mob to help them adjust and hold condition score – this year they have been able to keep them in with the main herd on 3-in-2 and found that their condition is very similar to last year, saving an additional mob.
  • We have been feeding 2kgDM/cow/day DDG through the shed but have stopped this over the past week:
    • We found that with the longer grazing intervals, cows had begun to stand around near the front of the paddock later in the interval, particularly after removing the DDG from the shed – they were likely wanting to come into the shed for their feed
    • As they have settled in and realised that there is no feed in shed anymore, less cows seem to be standing around and more grazing or ruminating.
  • Heading onto a 25-day round as of 26 September – have been following our SRP until now.
  • We have shut up 12ha to cut for baleage, which is early compared to previous seasons when the first cut was in December.
  • Irrigation also started early this year, with pivots starting up during August for a short time to help top up between rainfall events. Still irrigating sporadically through September.
  • The focus over the next 4-6 weeks is to prep for mating, with tail painting and pre-mating heats starting next week. We have also been chatting with LIC around our options for our tech during the AB period. The plan so far is:
    • Draft cows at 5AM and mate at 9am
    • Draft cows at 5PM – hold nearby and mate at 7-9am following morning
    • Draft 11AM, mate 4pm
Last updated: Aug 2023
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