A mid-January heatwave last year spurred Hayley Hoogendyk to pull afternoon milking from 2pm to 11.30am as part of her twice-a-day milking schedule (her morning milking time was 5am). The one-week trial was extended to the end of the season.
Hoogendyk went back to the old twice-a-day pattern at the start of the new season, when heat-stress issues were no longer an issue.
"In the first few days of the heatwave, we were crashing from 1.8 to 1.6 kilograms of milksolids per cow per day but, after we pulled the afternoon milking time back to 11.30am, it went back up to 1.8," says Hoogendyk. "We didn't see any negative effects on the quality of the milk, and there was no change in the somatic cell count, so we're happy."
Happy cows and peopleDuring the trial, the cows ate a small amount of grass (or crops like turnips) between the two milkings, plus a similar amount of PKE during the second milking. They ate the remainder (80 per cent) of their daily grass or crop allocation while in their night paddock.
Hoogendyk now aims to keep the cows' day feed quite tight during summer. "We found that the less digesting of food they do during hot days, the better, as digestion raises their body temperature."
Cows moving themselves between the paddocks, shed and shady areas not only saved time, it minimised lameness issues.
Life became more enjoyable for Hoogendyk, her team and their families too. "It had been taking us an hour to get the cows up to the shed, then another hour to push them away afterwards because they didn't want to leave its shade."
Instead, the cows moved themselves by their own free will to a nearby shady paddock between milkings, while Hoogendyk and her staff carried out other on-farm jobs and maintenance, saving staff time. "We're definitely keen to do it again depending on how hot each summer season is," says Hoogendyk, who was Dairy Manager of the Year at the 2017 Dairy Industry Awards.
"Many people don't like change or trying something new, but I think you've just got to look at your animal and staff welfare. This approach is good for both, happy cows and happy people."
Hayley has attended a DairyNZ Milksmart event in the past. Her redesigned milking schedule reflects the range of benefits you could also enjoy by using the Milksmart approach on your farm at any time of year:
* Quality time and staff work/life balance.
* Quality milk with no loss in production.
* Improved cow health and wellbeing.
* Overall time savings.
* Labour and feed cost savings. Check out dairynz.co.nz/milking