A moment’s inattention bringing the cows in resulted in Luke Templeton having to call on a friend, who had never milked, to take over the milking while he went to hospital.
“I gave him a brief run-down on how the shed operated and left him to it – and he had no problems. It’s an awesome shed.”
That ‘awesome shed’ is a Waikato Milking Systems 60 bail Orbit rotary platform with SmartECR electronic cup removers, SmartSPRAY automated teat spraying, BailGate Straps (automated cow restraints), SmartWASH auto wash, in-shed feeding and automatic drafting on the family farm at Otaitai in Southland.
The new dairy, commissioned in August 2016, is a replica of a Waikato Milking Systems dairy built on the neighbouring family farm xx years ago.
The two 400 hectare dairy units are a legacy of the foresight of Luke’s great-great-grandfather, William Templeton, who purchased the then 2000 acre property, east of Riverton and bordering Foveaux Straight, in 1911. Then it was the site for a flax mill operation before, when that industry waned, converting to sheep and cattle in the 1980s.
In 2002 the property was subdivided into two 1000 acre (400 hectare) properties owned by Luke’s father and uncle.
“At the time, my brother Peter and I were working off the farm. I was engineering in the North Island and Peter was dairying. We got an invitation from our parents to come home for a ‘succession’ talk, the upshot of which was Peter assuming management of our uncle’s block, with me on our parents’ block.”
The plan was to farm each block independently, but to initially milk through one dairy which would be built on Luke’s uncle’s farm.
“We milked 1000 cows, in two herds, through the new Waikato Milking Systems 60 bail Orbit for a few years but this was never sustainable long-term, especially given we wanted to increase the size of each herd to 620 and so in 2015 we decided to build a second dairy on the farm I managed.
“The aims for the first shed – one man with all the bells and whistles – were the same for the second, so we simply repeated the spec. We wanted dairies which would remain relevant in terms of their technology and that is one of the advantages of Waikato Milking Systems – pretty-much everything can be retrofitted and updated.”
The build started in February 2016 and the dairy was finished, ready for calving, in August of that year.
The identical layout of the sheds ensured Luke’s herd transitioned well to the new dairy with good cow flow from day one and, as planned, one person is comfortably able to milk the herd in around two hours during the peak.
The cows are fed molasses and PKE (to promote production) at every milking so there is never any reluctance to go onto, or off, the platform. An innovative spray of air at the exit bail, operated by a foot control at cups on, encourages any recalcitrant cows to leave.
Luke says the BailGate Straps are very effective for holding any cow on the platform, if she hasn’t finished milking or has kicked the cups off, until she has finished milking.
“The SmartSPRAY automatic teat spray system is awesome; as soon as the cups come off it sprays getting a good coverage of the udder every time. “
Tail-paint and AI is done on the vet stand and a mirror at cups-on provides an easy way to check tail paint and monitor heats.
“SmartWASH is incredible, a fully automated seven-day programmable system which literally lets you do two things at once.”
Luke Templeton said he always considered the new dairy to be one of the easiest and simplest to work in – but the real test came when he injured himself.
“The level of technology we have in the dairy, and the ease of use, fundamentally future-proofs the farm. It meant my mate was able to come in here, with no experience, milk 500+ cows, and clean-up. Now that’s a test not many sheds would pass. But this one did, so I couldn’t be happier.”