Adopting a new concept to their milking routine saved sharemilkers Kim and Duncan Fraser one hour a day in the milking shed.
Spending that valuable time in other areas has brought a mass of benefits to their life and business.
Efficiency and happiness levels went up, costs went down, and production remained stable.
Some say, time is the most valuable thing you can spend ...
"When Duncan and I entered the dairy industry, the standard belief was that a rotary platform time should be set so that only about 10 per cent of cows are sent around twice," says Kim.
"After reading a DairyNZ article with new research showing that 15-20 per cent go-around cows was in fact more efficient, we were keen to attend our local DairyNZ Milksmart event to learn more about the concept."
At the time, Kim and Duncan were milking 440 cows through a 36-bail rotary on a Manawatu farm and, needless to say, they were "keen to make milking go quicker".
"Using the 10 per cent go-around concept, each milking took about three hours, excluding wash up," says Duncan.
For Kim and Duncan's set-up, sending 20 per cent of cows around the platform twice meant speeding it up from a 12-minute round to a nine-minute round.
"Basically, it means there are more cows on the platform that are actually milking," says Duncan. "When we were only sending 10 per cent of cows around twice, even with a platform speed of 12 minutes per round, we were often slowing down the platform waiting for cows to finish milking.
"There is no change in production from speeding up the platform and cows are still milked out properly - it's just a faster process.
"If you don't have automatic cup removers, it also keeps the work flowing for the cups-off person so there's less idle time."
Worth its weight in gold
With a time saving of 30 minutes per milking, or one hour per day, Kim and Duncan say the flow on benefits for them and their staff are immense.
"The extra time is the biggest benefit. It's given us a lot more freedom and flexibility.
"We're not as rushed during the day which has really improved our wellbeing and it makes the job more enjoyable," says Duncan. "You need that enjoyment if you're in it for the long haul. If you don't enjoy it, you don't last long."
Stress levels went down thanks to longer breaks, says Duncan.
"A proper break makes the world of difference. It gives you time to rest, relax and eat well to stay fuelled and healthy.
"It made our farm policy of everyone being home by five thirty at night very achievable. Milking starts to fit in with that."
With the days running at a smoother pace, Duncan says their efficiency on-farm has increased, they aren't as tired and they have the ability to work on the business, not just in it.
"We have the time to be more organised and put plans together," says Duncan. "I'm usually in the house for an hour and a half over lunch. I have a proper break for an hour and I now have the ability to spend half an hour focusing on the business.
"We also have the capacity to set up in advance and feed out for a few days at once which makes more sense," says Duncan. "It also means that if something does go wrong, it doesn't put your whole day down the gurgler like it would if you're stretched every minute."
Maintaining work enjoyment
A work environment with less stress, better hours and more enjoyment is one the whole team benefits from, say the pair.
"In terms of the actual milking, fewer hours in the milking shed is a big win," says Kim. "It keeps the milkings consistent. Working at a platform speed for 20 per cent go-around cows is really the maximum for efficiency and work routine. It can't be sped up much more as you wouldn't be able to keep up. Milking is also probably one of everyone's least favourite jobs on the farm because it's so repetitive."
A speedier milking also makes for happy cows, say Duncan and Kim.
"Speeding up improves cow flow. The cows hate waiting. They lose their nerve a bit if they are waiting too long for the cups-on person.
"When the staff aren't stressed they treat the cows better because they're not in a hurry to push cows up the race or in the yard." Inside Dairy, October 2015