Once-a-day milking proving popular
Milking only once each day is growing as more farmers think about their personal goals and staff.
Farmers are moving away from the more demanding milking twice each day.
About 30 farmers from the lower North Island went to a oncea-day (OAD) discussion group at Horowhenua farmer’s Kerry Walker’s Te Horo farm and most of them knew each other.
Kerry Walker’s son, Ryan, said milking was done early in the morning, and that left the rest of the day to do maintenance. He is studying at university, but came to the farm during holidays to help.
‘‘Since we have been on OAD the farm is looking tenfold better. We have had two seasons on OAD and we would not go back to milking twice each day.’’
The Walkers run mostly friesian cows.
DairyNZ’s consulting officer in Hawke’s Bay, Gray Beagley said there had been an increase in OAD discussion groups.
They had gone from three to seven groups throughout the country, during the past season
‘‘And I have had lots of phone calls about OAD. People often get stuck on the treadmill [of twice a day milking]. They have a couple of years of bad returns, and build up during the next few years. Just step back and think and look at people and animal health and what works for you,’’ he said.
‘‘People say cows need to be [Toyota] Corollas not Ferraris, they need to milk steadily and put milk in the vat for most of the year not peak and then drop off their milk flow.’’
Dairy cow mating had started on most farms and OAD milkers had found that cows were cycling well and had not lost as much condition as twice-a-day milkers, after calving.
Generally, it was the cow, not the breed which made an animal suitable for OAD, said farmers. But jerseys or kiwi-cross cows were more likely to cope than friesians farmers said.
‘‘In two weeks there has been a big change in the weather We have had sunshine, and had a shower the other night which I was pleased about. If it stays fine, we’ll be irrigating soon,’’ said Dale Pratt who farmed OAD near Featherston in Wairarapa.
Manawatu¯ farmer Christine Finnigan, who has milked OAD for the past nine years, said the water table had been high.
‘‘It is starting to dry out a bit now, but it has been really wet.’’
While most cows produced less on OAD production wasn’t everything, she said.
‘‘On the whole, we don’t get as many problems as TAD [twicea-day], lameness for example.’’
Attending the discussion group were visiting Gore farmers Shane and Eileen Walker. They said some Southland farmers with big herds had staff who were starting milking at 3am and who were suffering from burnout.
They were in the initial stages of a great season and were topping pastures.
After coping with a wet winter, and wet spring some Manawatu¯ and Rangitı¯kei farmers despaired of a productive season.
‘‘Describe what pasture looks like for us - we haven’t seen it for a while,’’ a Manawatu¯ farmer said.
Kerry Walker said he was getting older, and OAD milking had sparked an interest in the farm again.
‘‘It is easier, but different too. If you don’t put the effort in you won’t get the results in OAD’’
Beagley said the retention of staff was often not recognised as the bonus of OAD milking.
‘‘It is easier, but different too.’’
‘‘I think it is under-rated on OAD. Keeping staff means less training and getting new staff used to the job and people.’’
Ashurst farmer Ed Jackson said he talked to Massey University once-a-day guru Colin Holmes before moving to OAD milking.
He said he took several years to change from TAD to OAD milking, and as a result he did not lose any production.
‘‘I had 20 per cent replacements. I took several years to transition. And I get concerned when people talk about how much production they have lost by going to OAD.’’
Kerry Walker hosted the once-a-day milking discussion group at his Te Horo farm.