Benefits from top to bottom

7 October 2020

DHL COO Blair Robinson is impressed by Max T’s adaptability and low cost.

Late last season, Dairy Holdings began adopting the MaxT milking approach across its farm portfolio. Already, the company’s seeing multiple benefits at all levels of the business.

“It’s a no brainer.”

That’s what Dairy Holdings Limited (DHL) chief operating  officer Blair Robinson thought when he first heard about the MaxT (maximum milking time) approach to milking efficiency.  It wasn’t only the time savings and associated benefits for people and cows that captured Blair’s enthusiasm, though – it was MaxT’s ability to be adapted to farms of all sizes and setups, without major expense.

“Milksmart MaxT fits the DHL Strategy to focus on its people’s training, upskilling and growth through the application of simple repeatable processes to deliver efficient results at scale,” says Blair.

DHL’s head office is based in Ashburton. Together, its 60 pasture-based farms produce 17 million kg MS/year from 50,000 milking cows, with most supplying Fonterra.

“Our largest farm has 1450 cows with a 50-bail rotary, down to a farm with 380 cows using a herringbone shed,” Blair says. “The principles of MaxT can be applied to them all.”

Maxing up on MaxT

Blair says that, before last season, Dairy Holdings had the odd operator doing MaxT to a certain degree, but it certainly wasn’t consistent across the business. After attending a DairyNZ Milksmart field day featuring QCONZ consultant Josh Wheeler,

“Right away, cow flow into and out of the shed – especially into it – improved massively.”

Dairy Holdings held their own field days for staff, extending invites to surrounding farmers too.

“It’s early days yet,” says Blair, “but I’m hoping MaxT will gain on average a half-hour saving on each milking across our 60 farms, over 270 days in milk. That will also lead to happier people and healthier cows – and help us and the sector attract and retain people, for little or no cost.

“However, if the sole benefit out of doing this is giving more time back to our people, then that’s enough for us to try MaxT. Everything on top of that is just a bonus.”

DHL farm supervisor Mick O’Connor says MaxT is “a good system with a pile of science behind it”.

Powerful outcomes

Mick O’Connor, a supervisor for DHL since 2014, oversees 14 farms in mid-Canterbury (10 contract milkers, two sharemilkers and two managers).

“I can’t really see any negatives from using MaxT, including on somatic cell counts (SCC) or production,” says Mick. “It’s a good system with a pile of science behind it, which gets you thinking about efficiencies across the whole farm system.”

Initially, Mick’s group of contractors were 50/50 on the idea of MaxT. Then they saw others benefitting from it.

“One guy with 950 cows and a 48-bail rotary had a big power bill. We told him MaxT would save him time and money. He ummed and aaahed. We said, ‘ok then, keep the $40,000 power bill’. He really wanted to sort that bill though, so he gave it a go. He saved three hours a day, and around $12,000 on the bill too. Also, SCCs sitting around 270 dropped down to around 150.”

DHL contract milker Aidan O’Leary (right, with Mick O’Connor) says MaxT is “a win-win for man and beast, which is always nice”.

Far from lame results

Aidan O’Leary is on his fourth season contract milking for DHL, supervised by Mick O’Connor. Aidan’s team is peak milking 1380 Kiwi-cross cows (in four herds) using a 56-bail rotary with no in-shed technology, which Aidan says hasn’t been a limiting factor.

“We had zero change to production and to SCC. Right away, cow flow into and out of the shed – especially into it – improved massively. Milking times were much shorter. We’re able to milk more cows per person per hour. There’s less shed time for people and the cows, and more time in the paddock for cows to eat grass.

“We’ve had a big improvement in cows’ teat condition and a drop in mastitis. We also reduced last season’s 10% lameness down to 2.5%.”

‘Win-win’ for staff and cows

Aidan says MaxT has been a win for the business due to lower shed-running costs, and for efficiency, giving more time back to his team.

“It’s also a win for the cows, because if cow flow improves and milking times decrease, they’re back in the paddock, they’re happy, their teat condition is better, they’re getting lame less.

“It’s a win-win for man and beast, which is always nice.”

Lisa Fedyk, herd manager on Aidan O’Leary’s team, gets to grips with the MaxT approach.

Milking changes across DHL’s farms

  • Used MaxT to standardise milking start and finish.
  • Improved cow flow using markers to indicate backing gate.
  • Put up panels to guide cows into the dairy and minimise.
  • Adjusted pulsation rates (e.g. to 70:30), platform speeds and clusters.
  • Used cup liners to reduce ‘teat slip’ (front teats/ square; back teats/round).
  • Identified better cupping techniques and when to get the cups off.

Have a go at implementing MaxT yourself. Check out our step-by-step guide and download our Milksmart app for help calculating your MaxT time at

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