The transition to a rotary milking parlour from a herringbone can be a testing time for farmers and cows but it didn’t faze the 1000 cow herd on Mike Oakley’s Lower Shadmoor Farm in Shropshire, England.
The farm had been in the Oakley family for three generations, Mike taking over from his father in 1989. At the time the property occupied 230 acres (93 hectares). Today, three decades on, it has grown to 1100 acres (460 hectares).
“That acreage is spread across three farms plus some extra land. The herd is housed indoors in cubicle sheds all year round so the land is devoted entirely to growing feed – 700 acres (283 hectares) in grass and 460 acres (186 hectares) in maize,” Mike says.
The fact that the herd is housed indoors, used to human interaction, contributed to the ease with which they transitioned to the new 60 bail Waikato Milking Systems Orbit rotary platform.
“We had been milking in a 20/40 herringbone swingover shed built in 1996 and were getting to the stage where Ian Dean of milking machine engineer company M.R. Dean, was calling twice a week to keep it going. The parlour had been designed for 250 cows and we were putting 800 through so it was beyond its capacity.
“We looked at a range of milking parlours but weren’t happy with either the systems or the quotes or both. We did look at a couple of Waikato Milking Systems parlours though and were very impressed with the cow flow and AfiMilk technology so we talked with Ian Dean and he put a package together which included the design of water systems, yards etc.
“We settled on a 60 bail concrete Orbit platform because it suited the current size of the herd and will keep pace as we increase cow numbers to a maximum of say 1800,” Mike says.
Ian Dean recalls that 18 months was occupied in the planning process for the new Oakley dairy parlour.
“We spent a lot of time, before the build started, making sure that, from the ground up, nothing was missed out and everything was incorporated,” Ian says.
“I advised on layout, electricity, planning, everything. We did a turnkey project overseeing every aspect of the parlour’s construction and commissioning. I was on site as the project evolved to ensure that mistakes didn’t happen.”
The new Waikato Milking Systems 60 bail Orbit concrete rotary platform has SmartECRs (automatic cup removers), bail retention gates (holding cows on the platform if required), SmartWASH (complete washing system) and SmartSPRAY (teat spray).
The new rotary was commissioned in September 2015 and Mike recalls that on change-over day they milked at 2 am in the morning “so we could finish by 7 am and move the milk vat to the new rotary parlour which was located 50 yards away.
“The first milking in the new rotary started at 3 that afternoon and finished around 11 that night. We had to push each of our 800 cows onto the platform at that first milking, but the next day they just walked straight on. We feed on the platform so they were keen to come on.”
Mike says that, being housed indoors, the cows are used to having people around them and are very quiet and docile. “This really helped with a transition which we thought would be challenging.”
“Around 900 cows go through in three hours with four staff, two at cups-on, one at the auto brush cleaning sand residue from the cows and one ‘floater’, going where’s needed.”
Today, the Oakley herd is comprised of 1000 Holsteins mostly of French origin.
“We buy in all replacements and don’t keep any young stock,” Mike says. “All cows are bred to Belgian Blue AI beef sires, with all calves sold at four to six weeks of age.”
“We are now looking to build another cubicle shed which will enable us to grow the herd by 200 to a new total of 1200 and eventually plan to milk 1500 cows.
“Until now we have been milking twice a day but in September 2016 will milk three times a day to increase production by 12% to 15% pushing the per cow yield to 10,000 litres per cow.”
Mike Oakley says the new milking parlour is enabling this growth.
“We really like the shed. We like the quietness of operation and smoothness of the platform.
“When we were building it we needed to manually turn the platform to get another job done and were able to turn the 30 tonne concrete rotary platform by hand! The parlour is easy to keep clean, very efficient and not too cluttered with heavy steel.
“The staff like working in it and the Afi kit which comes is very good. We can put in whatever parameters we want ie to check for activity, sort cows, conductivity for mastitis levels and cow weight. The Afi system also records all milk yields on a daily basis and feeds cows according to these yields.”Mike oakley