How can I keep my milking parlour in operation during the adverse weather?

Farmers around the country are doing their best to battle the blizzard-like conditions in an effort to keep livestock milked, fed and watered.

Met Eireann has extended its Status Red snow and ice warning across Leinster, Munster and Co. Galway, until 6:00pm this evening. A Status Orange weather warning for snow and ice is in place for the rest of the country.

Along with the snow and blizzard-like conditions, farmers will have to deal with power outages. Who can forgot ex-hurricane Ophelia? It left a trail of destruction and thousands of farms were without power.

Since then, one thing that has become evident is the need for generators on farms – especially dairy enterprises.

Where farmers have access to a generator, it is important that the generator is of sufficient size and that it’s matched to the incoming mains supply; so that all equipment on the farm can operate as normal and at the same time. A changeover switch must also be present.

On a dairy farm, it takes very little to start the milking machine, as it starts under no vacuum and is usually the first item turned on.

The main load arises when starting the milk tank compressors. They can draw up to five times their running load when starting. At this stage, other equipment such as scrapers and water pumps will have already cut in.

In the instance where farmers are sharing generators, they must ensure that they are used both correctly and safely. Farmers should also take care with fallen power lines. If this situation arises, the ESB should be contacted immediately.

Preventing milking parlours from freezing

There are many tasks which the farmer can carry out to help prevent the milking parlour from freezing. The use of infra-red lights at strategic points on all liquid lines of the system can also make life easier for the farmer.

Guarding open parlour entrances or poorly-fitting doors and using temporary plastic sheeting can provide shelter from freezing winds.

Investing in a thermostatically-controlled heater for the plant room, which can be set to switch on at a given temperature, is a useful way to prevent the milking machine from freezing.

Undertaking the simple things can be very effective. One simple step is to close doors between milkings to prevent heat loss. Completely draining the milking machine by running the machine for longer after the final rinse can also be very effective.

In addition, opening the drain plug at the filter sock and opening drains at low points also improves drainage.

Circulating a saline solution after the final rinse, as salt lowers the freezing point of water, can be beneficial. According to Teagasc, a 2.5% solution is a suitable concentration for the salt solution (0.5kg of salt dissolved in 20L of water). However, care should be taken to rinse the machine fully before any subsequent milking.

Removing clusters from jet washers after cleaning and leaving them to hang freely will also make life easier.

Farmers could also move to once a day (OAD) milking where possible. However, common sense must prevail and farmers should not put themselves in any danger when it comes to milking their cows during this spell of inclement weather.