A dairy farmer who made the decision to milk his cows every 16 hours with little research gave it “a go” and found it has worked out well for them.
Garth and Wendy Pickford milk the cows at 6am, 10pm and then 2pm the next day at their farm north of Marton in Rangitīkei.
He said changing from twice-a-day milking was easier on the cows, staff and them as it enabled he and his wife to spend more time with their school age children.
Pickford said there was research which showed cows lost milk when they were left for 18 hours or more, but there was no research to show how milking every 16 hours impacted on the milk flow.
They passed on their experiences of shortening the milking cycle to about 20 people at a dairy discussion group held in Rangitīkei between Marton and Hunterville.
Among the group were farmers who milked once-a-day, twice-a-day stalwarts as well as a Fonterra and a DairyNZ consulting officer.
Pickford said he and Penny did the late night milking at 10pm, and found it restful.
“No heat, no flies. The cows are chilled out. We like doing it.”
A worker came in to do the afternoon milking as well as other work such as feeding out to cows and picking up calves.
Pickford said calves stayed with the cows for three days and by the time they came into the calf shed, they were healthy and drank easily.
He said it was a closed system and all cattle were raised on the property with only four angus bulls brought in to mate with the cows.
“And they came from a stud farmer in this area.”
The inbuilt system reduced the likelihood of the herd becoming infected with Mycoplasma bovis. The family had a run off block just down the road, he said,
Most of the angus crossed with dairy cows were raised on the property and some of them were bought by his father, Jeff Pickford.
He said no calves from the farm went on the bobby truck, and the bobby calf problem was an industry-wide issue that needed to be dealt with.
Pickford said they sold all their male calves, angus cross or the straight friesian bull calves.
He and Penny liked the 16-hour milking system after running it for a year.
“The cows look relaxed and body condition score has been better than it was when we were milking twice a day. It has been pretty relaxing on us too. We get more family time with the kids. We can send them off to school and pick them up without having to rush around. It is really nice.”
Pickford said there were new ways around just being tied at work all day, and farmers should try them more often.
“You don’t know these systems until you try them out on your farm. Milking every 16 hours has worked for us.”
He said the autumn herd of 86 cows was due to calve about now, with 160 cows to calve in spring.
By: JILL GALLOWAY