On units where cow numbers have increased it’s vital to check that parlour and milking management routines match the size of the herd. We spoke to a leading milking specialist to find out why.
TEXT RACHEL QUEENBOROUGH
Milking parlours and routines can often be overlooked when herds expand, with the focus often, for example, being on ensuring that feeding and housing needs are met.
But on units where herd size has increased, parlour set-up and management practices will need to be adjusted to handle the extra milk throughput, according to Dairy Spares’ Tim Evanson.
“For a start, more cows means more milkings per day for each cluster unit, and this increases wear on milking liners,” he says. “Allowing liners to become old and worn results in surface degradation, which can harbour bacteria and increases the risk of mastitis transmission. Liners also lose elasticity over time, and this reduces their milking out efficiency. So care is needed to ensure they are replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.”
The recommendation for TiMEPRO milking liners, for example, is that they should be changed after a maximum of 3,000 cow milkings. “For a 200-cow herd, in a 16-unit milking parlour on twice-a-day milking, this means liners should be replaced every four months,” he says. “But add another 40 cows to the milking herd and those same liners will need changing every 100 days.
“It’s like driving a car on tyres with poor tread. You lose performance and it’s not safe. It’s the same with liners. “Adding another 40 cows to the herd also puts an extra, say, 500 litres of milk through the parlour at each milking,” adds Mr Evanson. “So producers should ensure that their milk filtration system can handle the extra volume and that filters are of a size that the socks will not need changing partway through a milking. “Check filter size and quality to ensure it is handling milk flow sufficiently. If socks are found to have split at the end of milking then this can have a detrimental effect on physical milk quality, and may lead to price-band downgrades.”
He urges producers to also check that the parlour is operating as efficiency as possible: “Particularly because increasing the herd size will also increase the size of any inefficiencies.
“Milking parlours account for a significant percentage of electricity usage on dairy units, so reviewing the farm’s electricity tariff is a good place to start when looking to save on costs. “Savings in the amount of electricity used in the parlour can also be made by investing in variable-speed drive on a vacuum pump because this can cut electricity use by up to 60%.”
The electric motor drives the vacuum pump at a constant speed, and the vacuum level is controlled by a regulator. Installing a variable-speed drive will make the process more efficient,” says Mr Evanson. “It adjusts the vacuum level according to the varying demands throughout the milking and washing processes, by controlling the frequency and rotational speed of the electric motor and vacuum pump. This can also improve vacuum-pump durability, as well as reduce maintenance requirements and oil consumption.” Similarly, installing a variable-speed-drive milk pump can help reduce electricity consumption and promote efficient pre-cooling through the plate cooler, allowing possible savings on bulk tank cooling and maintenance costs. “Producers should discuss these options with their dairy engineer,” he adds.
In-parlour feeding is another area where efficiency can be improved. “Nutritionists say there are three types of diet – the one that is formulated, the one that is actually fed, and the one the cows eat.
"But there’s another potential source of error: the physical amount of feed that a cow is given in the parlour. While operators can program the amount of concentrate they want the cow to receive according to her yield, how much is actually released from the in-parlour feeder?
Check feeders: regular calibration is important to reduce waste
“Regular calibration is important to avoid overfeeding cows and creating waste, or underfeeding them and losing milk.
“Ideally in-parlour auger feeders should be checked and calibrated each time there’s a fresh feed delivery. If you can reuse some bags under the feed chute in the manger pan, catch a controlled amount of feed and accurately weigh the dispensed feed.”
He says that many feed controllers will permit group calibration, recalibrating the dispensing rate for all feeders to allow for any change in feed density and weight. “Because this is a blanket calibration, the recommendation is to recalibrate each individual dispenser twice a year to optimise feed accuracy. “If feeders are worn out and can’t easily be corrected then new ones can be retro-fitted. Plastic ones are now available, which means no corrosion and no holes.”