Flexible milking creates options on-farm

24 February 2020

DairyNZ’s Dr Paul Edwards at Lincoln University Research Dairy Farm where he is leading new research on ‘three in two’ milking systems.

With flexible milking systems becoming increasingly popular, new research into ‘three in two’ milking indicating that farmers and their staff could benefit from this system will be presented at DairyNZ’s upcoming Canterbury Farmers’ Forum.

The forum is one of five Farmers’ Forums being held nationwide during February and March. The Canterbury event will be held at Lincoln University’s Ashley Dene Research and Development Station from 9.30am-3.30pm on March 12.

DairyNZ senior farm systems scientist Dr Paul Edwards will share the results from a trial at the Lincoln University Research Dairy Farm (LURDF) involving 116 cows and testing different applications of the ‘three in two’ (three milkings over two days) system.  

The trial compares twice-a-day milking; full season ‘three in two’ milking; and two part-season ‘three in two’ milking options. One option starts ‘three in two’ milking from 1 December and the other from 1 March.

Dr Edwards says the trial results are exciting and early data shows it’s possible to shift to ‘three in two’ milking with only a small reduction in milk production. 

“We are already seeing many farms in Canterbury and North Otago shifting towards using ‘three in two’ milking in mid to late lactation,” he says. “Our results are indicating that starting ‘three in two’ milking earlier in the lactation cycle or using it across the whole season could be a good option for many farms.”

DairyNZ’s animal care consults of 500 dairy farmers nationwide found that the number of farmers using ‘three in two’ milking has grown from seven percent to 12 percent (between 2017/18-2018/19). In Canterbury, 30 percent of farmers were using ‘three in two’ milking for part of the 2018/19 season, up from 20 percent the previous year.

“Reducing the number of milkings, and changing their timing, can help better manage farm workload. More flexible shifts, and the option to start later on some days, can also open up dairy roles to a wider workforce and help make work on-farm more attractive,” says Dr Edwards.

“There are lots of different variations to flexible milking which can be adopted by farmers. For example, some farms are shifting to 10 milkings in seven days (10 in 7 milking) which allows you to milk once-a-day at the weekend. Milking can be planned around farm needs and staff availability.”

The trial is one component of a three-year project to investigate flexible milking options. A dozen farmers using ‘three in two’ milking have been interviewed this year to help identify the barriers and lessons associated with switching to this system.

Further work is planned to pilot ‘three in two’ milking on commercial farms, test different milking timings within a ‘three in two’ system, and develop information resources for farmers. 

Farmers’ Forum guest speakers include celebrity chef Nadia Lim, who will talk on the future of food and economist Cameron Bagrie, who will discuss global markets, opportunity and risk.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle will share farmer feedback and DairyNZ’s planned future focus, while DairyNZ strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold will cover the dairy sector today and future demands.

The DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum is free for DairyNZ levy payers and their staff. For more information and to register, visit dairynz.co.nz/farmersforum.

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Vanessa Fever

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Phone 027 836 6295


Lee Cowan

Senior Engagement & Communications Manager

Phone 021 930 836


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