Needing a change in their dairying lives, Shane and Eileen Walker, of Gore, decided to try once-a-day milking.

The couple headed south from the North Island in 2001 and five years ago decided it was time to try their hands at a different system.

Switching to once-a-day, the Walkers' stocking rate stayed the same, running 2.9 cows to the hectare which was 770 cows in total.

Their calving date has been dropped back, due to the 6-week in-calf rate and their dry off date had been pushed out slightly as well, they said.


''It does depend on the snow pinch.''

Cups-on starts at 7am, and milking 500 cows into the July period does not seem to be an issue for the Walkers.

The couple had always used once-a-day milking at the start and end of their seasons, Eileen said.

For the first 15 years they were in Southland, they were in an equity partnership.

Their partner was already once-a-day milking, so when the conversation was brought up Mrs Walker said she was surprised they had not talked about it sooner.

The Walkers were also lucky enough to have been able to look at the figures from other once-a-day farmers.

Making the move to once-a-day had spiralled on from the couple needing a change in their dairying lives.

They had tried putting a manager on the property, which did not work so well, and that was when they decided to go once-a-day.


''For us, stepping back into managing roles, it was really exciting to change to once a day,'' Mrs Walker said.

As is the case for most farmers who make the switch, the Walkers had a drop in production the first year, but by year four were back to where they started.

One thing that had helped their budget and transition, was their recording, so they knew which cows were top performers twice-a-day but would not be suited to once-a-day, Mrs Walker said.

Breeding was a very important part of once-a-day milking.

''We used the LIC once-a-day bull recommendation,'' Mrs Walker said.

All artificially bred calves are reared and the Walkers sell up to 30% of them, with a 20% replacement rate.

''We're looking to reduce that even further,'' Mr Walker said.

One key piece of advice they offered other farmers looking at once-a-day was that herd testing was absolutely vital.

Last year, the Walkers chose to test for Johnes disease and as a result, culled about 30 cows.

''Some of them were big producing cows,'' Mrs Walker said.

''Another focus once-a-day has given us is the breeding focus.''

Their empty rate is down to 7.5%.

Cows were also culled on udders and heifers that did not perform up to standard in their first lactation were also culled.

The Walkers found once-a-day a new challenge, but one that had kept them in the dairy industry.

''If we hadn't changed to once-a-day we would have stepped back or sold up,'' Mrs Walker said.

''We're really enjoying once-a-day,'' Mr Walker said.