Reducing your farm’s milking interval

Evening milking times on Irish dairy farms was decided by tradition or habit. However, changing the time of your PM milking can dramatically improve work organisation on the farm.

According to Teagasc, a concern many farmers have about a reduced milking interval is that it will affect milk yield.

However, a Teagasc Moorepark study compared a 12-hour milking interval (12:12) and an eight-hour milking interval (16:8). It found that the milk yields and milk composition was not affected by the milking interval.

Benefits of earlier start time

1. Better lifestyle: Starting milking at an earlier time will allow you to spend time with family and on hobbies.

2. Happier staff: Fixed afternoon milking’s at 4:00pm to 4:30pm ensure a consistent finishing time of 6:00pm. This in turn helps retain staff and makes your farm more attractive for employees.

3. Succession: The 16-18 hour interval showcases dairying as a more positive career for the next generation.

Options to reduce milking time:

  • Number of milking units – milking process time takes up approx. 33% of the working day, having sufficient units will go a long way to reducing your daily labour input. Target seven to eight rows of cows for one person operations;
  • Once-a-day (OAD) milking – OAD milking can be used as a management tool at any stage during the lactation to reduce labour. It is particularly useful in early lactation during the peak calving period;
  • Drafting facilities – either manual or electronic (operated from pit) will mean the milker will not need to leave the pit during milking;
  • Collecting yard – slatted yards or good channels in the collecting yard and high volume wash pumps will speed up;
  • ACRs – will allow one person to manage a large number of units without concerns of over-milking;
  • Backing gates – eliminates need to leave pit;
  • Automatic machine washing – will help reduce the labour input for machine cleaning.