Taking the heat out of milking

21 December 2018

Award-winning farm manager Hayley Hoogendyk is very open to change and trying new approaches on-farm to get the best out of her people and her cows. Here’s how adjusting her herds’ milking schedule last summer really paid off for both.

Hayley is currently managing Aron-Amy Farm in Kairanga, Manawatu. The 200-hectare (ha) property, owned by Craig and Raewyne Passey, and has 520 cows in two herds.

A mid-January heatwave prompted Hayley to pull afternoon milking from 2.00pm to 11.30am as part of her twice-a-day (TAD) milking schedule (her morning milking time was 5.00am). The one-week trial was extended to the end of the season.

Hayley went back to the old TAD pattern at the start of the new season, when heat stress issues were no longer an issue.

Production and milk quality

“In the first few days of the heatwave, we were crashing from 1.8 to 1.6 kilograms of milksolids per cow per day (kg MS/cow/ day), but after we pulled the afternoon milking time back to 11.30am, it went back up to 1.8,” says Hayley. “We didn’t see any negative effects on the quality of the milk, and there was no change in the somatic cell count (SCC), so we were happy.”

Happy cows

During the trial, the cows ate a small amount of grass (or crops like turnips) between the two milkings, plus a similar amount of PKE during the second milking. They ate the remainder (80 percent) of their daily grass or crop allocation in their night paddock.

Hayley now aims to keep the cows’ day feed quite tight during summer seasons. “We found that the less digesting of food they do during hot days, the better, as digestion raises their body temperature.” Cows moving themselves between the paddocks, shed and shady areas not only saved time, it minimised lameness issues.

Happy people

Life became more enjoyable for Hayley, her team and their families too. “It had been taking us an hour to get the cows up to the shed, then another hour to push them away afterwards because they didn’t want to leave its shade.” Instead, the cows moved themselves by their own free will to a nearby shady paddock between milkings, while Hayley and her staff carried out other on-farm jobs and maintenance, saving staff time.

Open to change

“We’re definitely keen to do it again depending on how hot each summer season is,” says Hayley, who was New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year at last year’s Dairy Industry Awards.

“Many people don’t like change or trying something new, but I think you’ve just got to look at your animal and staff welfare. This approach is good for both. Happy cows and happy people, it’s achieved all of that.”

Caption:  Award-winning dairy farmer Hayley Hoogendyk – open to change and trying new approaches to get the best out of her people and her cows.

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