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Labor Practices and Technology Adoption on New Zealand Dairy Farms

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Sixth International Dairy Housing Conference Proceeding, 16-18 June 2007, (Minneapolis, Minnesota) (Electronic Only)  701P0507e.(doi:10.13031/2013.22798)
Authors:   Jenny Jago, Ian Ohnstad, Douglas J Reinemann
Keywords:   Labor requirements, technology adoption, automatic cup attachment

Milk harvesting practices in New Zealand have changed substantially over time in response to increasing herd sizes and demand for more efficient systems. Observations on 10 farms, representing a range of herd sizes and milking facilities, indicated that of the time required for milking 17% was spent on preparation (fetching cows and setting the parlor up), 61% on milking (attaching and removing teat cups, maintaining cow flow, attending to udder health and equipment) and 22% of the time on post milking clean-up activities (including shutting cows away). Cows milked per hour ranged from 93 to 217 (calculated using all labor hours and excluding preparation and post-milking clean-up). Time per cow per milking ranged from 16 to 38s. Automating the cups on task within the current batch milking systems is often suggested as a means of dramatically improving milking efficiency. The observations showed that at present attaching teat cups accounts for 19-39% of time spent milking on New Zealand farms. Other activities such as fetching the herd, herd health and post-milking cleaning account for the bulk of the time required for milking. There is a need for technology to reduce the burden of a range of manual tasks in current milking practices including cup attachment, cup removal, health and milk quality monitoring, teat disinfection, animal identification and drafting. Many farms do not utilize existing technology which allows most of the in-parlor tasks (except cup attachment) to be automated. The need for automating the cup attachment task (in isolation from other milking tasks) during milking is greatest for the larger operations where farms are milking for extended hours with staff dedicated to the cups on task. On these farms the physical demands of cup attachment are contributing to problems with staff attraction and retention and in some cases causing physical repetitive strain injury. It is clear many dairy farms could improve their efficiency of operation through the adoption and correct use of existing automating technologies (e.g. automatic cup removers, drafting, teat disinfection and the use of electronic identification systems). It is suggested this is the next step required to lift the labor efficiency on farms. Once this has been achieved, further automation such as cup attachment within the batch milking systems can be considered.

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