WARRNAMBOOL DAIRY farmer Brad Sheen says the first two weeks milking in his new 44 bail rotary are the “best weeks ever” since he went dairying 21 years ago.
Mr Sheen and his partner Justine currently milk 300 cows on 200 hectares five minutes from Warrnambool, Victoria. They are split calving in spring and autumn, irrigation enabling them to milk all year round.
“I’m third generation on the farm, my father bought this property off his father 24 years ago, I joined him 21 years ago. Dad’s still heavily involved but wanted to back away from the daily milkings so we decided on a rotary to make the handling of the cows more efficient,” Mr Sheen said.
“We’ve increased the size of the farm, buying neighbouring properties, and this has enabled us to grow the size of the herd. We hope to milk around 400 cows by the end of 2018.
“The original shed was a 25 swing-over; a very basic, very workable dairy for its time but milking 300 cows was taking two people around three hours, twice a day.”
Mr Sheen said keeping up with the industry and future-proofing the farm was one of the drivers for a new shed.
“We had to go bigger and milk another 100 cows to support everything we’re doing here and that wasn’t practical in the old shed,” he said.
“We looked at refurbishing the swing-over but it would have taken around $250,000 — $300 000 to fit it out with everything we needed and, in the end, it was easier to move to a rotary. That would enable us to milk more cows, easily and efficiently.
“Overall we wanted to shorten milking time and make it easy for one person to efficiently milk 400 cows.”
The realisation that a rotary was “the way to go” saw Mr Sheen consider a range of options.
“We always had a preference for a Waikato Milking Systems’ shed so I milked in a mate’s shed which had Waikato gear and that confirmed it was the right way to go.
“We sat down with Damien Loomans of South West Dairy Services and Waikato Milking Systems’ Australian Sales Manager, Rob Spencer, and drew up a wish list of everything we wanted — a dairy which would make milking simple, efficient and productive.
“The ability to easily add upgrades like milk meters, auto wash and smart spray technology in the future was the icing on the cake.”
The new 44 bail Orbit concrete rotary was commissioned in late June.
“I’m milking 300 cows by myself and it’s so much easier. In the old dairy I was having to push cows on and off, now they’re happy to walk on, get fed and walk off. I can’t believe how it’s transformed the entire milking process.”
The new rotary is located 10 metres from the original dairy enabling Brad to utilise the old yards.
“We anticipated a few issues getting cows, unused to a rotary, onto the platform so in the weeks leading up to the commissioning of the new shed we gave them a dry run, milking them in the old shed and then running them through the new.
“When we changed over on the last day they knew what they were doing and that made the transition a lot easier.”
Mr Sheen said per cow production has improved since moving to the new dairy.
“There’s a massive difference in how relaxed they are in the new dairy compared to the old. The amount of effluent generated during milking is one example.
“In the old shed every third tail would go up during milking, now there’d only be two or three during an entire milking. I put that difference down to the fact they are so relaxed in their own bails with their own allocation of feed.
“Our heifers are booming because they’ve got their own space on the platform and don’t have to compete with bigger, older cows. It’s made a tremendous difference to cow behaviour and production.”
• Article supplied by Waikato Milking Systems.