Phillip and Sharon Dench
Orbit Concrete Rotary
"Came highly recommended by all the farmers I talked to"
Seeing a Waikato Milking Systems’ rotary in operation was enough to convert a Waikato dairy farmer to a rotary dairy from a lifetime of milking in a herringbone.
In 2016 Philip and Sharon Dench were faced with a total upgrade of the infrastructure of their Te Kawa dairy farm – effluent system, feed pad and dairy.
“We’d been milking on the farm for 30+ years, taking over around half of the current 214 hectares from Sharon’s parents and then purchasing the neighbouring farm.
“Both properties had herringbone sheds, and we opted to milk out of the 30 aside dairy on the home farm, eventually increasing it to 50 aside to handle the progressive growth of the herd from 680 to 780 cows,” Philip says.
“In 2016 we were faced with a total upgrade of the farm’s effluent system to bring it up to standard. It was a significant investment and so Sharon and I took a fresh look at the whole farming operation questioning whether we wanted to stay in dairying. The answer was yes, so we decided to improve the entire farm infrastructure to future-proof the farm.
“That meant a new feed pad, and a new dairy which would be more labour efficient.”
Philip recalls it was taking two people 3.5 hours twice a day to milk the then herd of 780 cows through the 50 aside herringbone “with another member of the team bringing in the second mob. That’s seven hours a day devoted just to milking.
“There had to be a better way so I talked to my neighbour, who is a pretty progressive farmer, and a few other farming mates about the type of dairy they’d recommend for our size herd and they all said a rotary.
“At that time I’d never been inside a rotary or seen a milking - seems surprising looking back, but I’d been pretty happy with the herringbone and it was only when faced with a complete revamp of the farm that I began looking at other milking systems.
“I went to the neighbour’s and watched a milking in his 60 bail Waikato Milking Systems’ rotary – and that convinced me it was the way to go. “I wanted a dairy with technology which could easily be upgraded so the shed would always be current. Waikato Milking Systems came highly recommended by all the farmers I talked to. It’s a New Zealand owned company, which I liked, which equates to good backup and I liked the simplicity, strength and sophistication of the gear.“
Initially, the new rotary would milk 680 cows in the first season (2017) rising to 780 with the potential to increase to a maximum of 1000 cows so Philip and Sharon opted for a 54 bail Orbit concrete rotary platform.
Key technologies include SmartD-TECT mastitis alert system, Smart ECR automatic cup removers, BailGates, Stainless steel double bank cooler, SmartSPRAY bullets.
“In time I will add milk meters so I can measure per cow production at each milking – and the Waikato system allows me to do those upgrades as the budget and technology allows.”
The first milking in the new dairy took place on 25 July “pretty much on schedule” Philip recalls. Transitioning cows which have only been milked in a herringbone is often described as “a challenge requiring additional manpower” but Philip says it was “incredibly simple.
“I made a decision not to feed them (on the feed pad) before milking and to train them as they calved, and it was easy. The heifers were the best; they walked straight on. Within two days most of the cows were walking on calmly, with 80% of the herd by the third day. Four days in all our cows walked on as though they’d been milked on it all their lives. I was rapt.” Now one person easily milks 680 cows in two hours with one person bringing in second herd.
Philip and Sharon Dench say the new dairy is “all we’d hoped it would be. We’ve achieved our goal of labour efficiency with one person comfortably milking 680 cows with another member of the team bringing the second herd in.
“One of the biggest advantages of a rotary platform, from an animal welfare and production point of view, is that – unlike a herringbone where different members of the milking team cup the cows – one person gets to see every cow at every milking so they notice any changes in the udder, or cow health and behaviour,” Philip said.
“Overall, every aspect of the project went so smoothly. It’s really future-proofed the farm and we’re rapt. Couldn’t be happier.”