Farmers will continue to adapt their systems to better suit staff, the environment, their animals and to achieve their business goals. Milking frequency is a way farmers are choosing to evolve and is therefore an area where there is an opportunity for more research.
A new three-year Sustainable Farming Fund project “Flexible milking for healthier people and cows” will focus on the strategic use of milking three times in two days.
The project, starting on July 1, 2019 will examine the human, animal and production response of milking three times in two days.
The DairyNZ-led research is funded by a $499,536 grant from the Sustainable Farming Fund, and $306,914 from DairyNZ.
The first year of the study will focus on learning from farmers already using 3-in-2 strategically – this will help guide development of resources and information. A farmlet trial will also be set up at Lincoln University Research Farm, where four scenarios will be tested. They include:
Full season TAD (the control)
3 in 2 from about 1-Mar
3 in 2 from about 1-Dec
Full season 3 in 2
The impact on milk production, body condition, animal behaviour, pasture production and grazing management will be measured.
The project will expand to piloting 3-in-2 on commercial farms, including measures to evaluate the effects on people of moving to a 3-in-2 milking system.
Different milking intervals will also be investigated. For example, 3in2 started as 16-16-16 but this has a night milking associated with it. It has evolved to 14-16-18 and now to 12-18-18 (which will be tested in the farmlets). But can 10-19-19 be done, or even extending out to 21hr intervals so two milkings can be completed on mon-wed-fri and one milking on tue-thu-sat and sun?
The focus will be on modelling to predict outcomes in different flexible milking scenarios, like what if a farmer wanted to go once-a-day over calving (to reduce work at a busy time) then go twice-a-day through peak lactation, then 3-in-2 through mid-lactation and once-a-day near dry off.
Key goals of the project include:
Farmers and advisors will have the confidence to adopt, optimise, and support the use of 3-in-2 milking
Enhanced wellbeing (less hours spent working on farm and greater flexibility)
Increased economic sustainability of farming businesses using 3-in-2 milking (through people and cow health).
Dairy farmers will be provided with results from the project regularly and resource will be developed to help farmers successfully adopt more strategic use of 3-in-2 milking.
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