This was reported within GSB Farms and outlines how technology and innovation can improve herd health and productivity. 

Richard Ellison was brought up on a dairy farm in the UK – and as he puts it: has been “milking cows, man and boy” all his life.

But he’s never seen a dairy like this before.

Sixteen years ago he came to New Zealand for a year on his OE and stayed permanently, work-ing on farms in the North Island.

Now he’s in Canterbury managing Graham and Shelley Walls new 200 hectares, plus 120ha run-off, conversion. The new 80-bail Waikato Milking Systems rotary dairy was completed last September, ready to milk 750 cows in two herds this season.

Waikato Milking Systems’ South Island sales manager Lindsay Giles says this is an elite Orbit concrete rotary platform, made in Waikato’s Hamilton plant.

It’s been fitted by Ashburton Milking Systems with standard Waikato 320 Claws and G2 cluster washers, SmartECRs (electronic cup removers) and BailGates with BailMate Rams.

After the SmartECR takes the cups off teat, sanitation is taken care of by a SmartSPRAY automatic teat spray system complete with leg spreaders.

The machinery includes two Fristam milk pumps and two SmartPULS digital pulsation systems – on a platform this size they need two – controlled by SmartDRIVE variable speed milk pump controllers.

The BP500 blower vacuum pump is also controlled by a variable speed device – an 18kw SmartDRIVE vacuum pump controller, giving the Waikato Milking Machine some serious power-saving capacity.

Milking is made easy for the farmer by the central wireless controller that controls the milking plant – all Richard has to do is press one button to set all the machines to ‘milk’. When milking is finished WMS’ Milk >system puts a slug of compre! through the lines to push the last of the milk into the vat. Then all Richard needs to do is push another button and Waikato’s SmartWASH, a pre-programmed wash controller, takes over.

“The farmer gets on with other work while SmartWASH disperses the water, detergent and runs the wash. Then it turns everything off, so there’s no need to wait around,’’ says Lindsay. “And there’s no need to stop the platform to wash or purge because it all goes through a ‘three-port wash gland’ in the central hub, so if needed it can be done quickly between herds.”

It all adds up to an efficient operation – and quick, usually cups-on at 5am and Richard is out by 6.30am.

Obvious choice

Ashburton-based Gavin Young Electrical handled most of the wiring for the conversion. Gavin did all of Graham and Shelley’s electrical work on their previous farm, so he was the obvious choice for the new conversion, And as the old saying goes: ‘When you’ve got a good tradie, stick with him’.

“He wired up pretty much all the new dairy and houses; everything for the conversion except the big irrigators and pumps,” says Richard.

He didn’t have any work with Waikato Milking Systems vet platform either – its about the only thing Ashburton Milking Systems put into the dairy that’s not high Technology.

Normally held upright out of the way, the platform is lowered manually when needed to give a solid work place with easy access to the cows. It’s designed with reliability, practicality, ease of use and safety in mind.

Dairy Feed Pad

World leaders

Tru-Test’s DTS Milk Cooling Solutions’ 18hp Patton Pak refrigeration unit with a heat recovery unit provides the dairy’s refrigeration. DTS has recently joined the Tru-Test Group, making them part of one of the worlds leaders in farm technology and ensuring clients like Graham and Shelley have the best technology. Tru-Test’s DTS area sales manager for Westland, Jamie Boswell, says the heat recovery system is a major saving in power.

“It puts water into the hot water cylinders at about 50 degrees Celsius, which is a lot better than heating water from the cold.”

And Canterbury groundwater is very cold, which is a bonus for refrigeration as there’s no need to pre-chill the water for the plate cooler. 

cattle feed pad design

Meal made easy 

On-platform each cow gets an individually formulated meal mix provided by dairy meal-feed specialists Permbrand 2013 Ltd’s feed system that delivers meal directly to the bails.

Permbrand’s augers work with the dairy’s computer to deliver a predetermined mix of crushed grains and minerals to feed bins in each bail.

“Permbrand 2013 Ltd supplied and installed all the feed system, including the bins, augers, hoppers and grain crusher mills – all the hardware,” says Richard.

Kiwi invention

Outside the cows get their feed supplements in a NZ-developed and manufactured SmartShelter 20m by 140m shelter. The feed pad structure, which comfortably houses 350 cows, is an open-ended, opaque Tuffspan Membrane roofed modular tunnel design that provides excellent natural lighting and ventilation.

The clearspan construction provides easy access for machinery – and more importantly where stock are being fed, no roosts for birds.

And it gives good protection from bad weather. Richard says that with the correct orientation and shelter from tree lines it stays five-10 degrees Celsius warmer inside than out – even during a howling—southerly. And in summer it’s a good three degrees Celsius cooler inside.

SmartShelter sales consultant Harvey Cottle says their structures are a NZ invention, engineered and manufactured in Auckland to stand up to pretty much anything the elements throw at them – including Canterbury gales. Graham and Shelley’s shelter has only just been finished, but it’s already proving its worth.

“Two weeks ago we had some consistent heavy rain, so I brought one herd in here during the day and the other overnight. That halved the pugging on the farm, improved feed utilisation and minimised our drop in production compared with our neighbours,” says Richard.

“We’re also looking at bringing our springers in here; that will make it much easier to keep an eye on them, but ultimately the weather will determine just how much we use the shelter.”

Stone trap

The new effluent system is fairly standard – a stone trap followed by a clay-lined settlement pond connected by a pipe. It is laid about half a metre below the surface, to a plastic-lined green water pond; then pumped onto the paddocks via the irrigator pivots.

Sustainable Water owner/director Tim O’Sullivan says they installed a high density polyethylene pond liner in the 3000m3 green water pond.

“Filtered effluent goes into the settlement pond where the solids sink to the bottom, a hard crust forms on top and the liquids flow through to the second pond,” says Richard.

“Exactly like a large, open septic tank.”

feed pad design nz

A major safety feature of the effluent ponds is the secure fencing around them. This was done by Andrew Morgan from Morgan Fencing, which did all the major new fencing work on the conversion.

The place was fenced as a run-off, so some fences needed to be realigned with tracks and the major new lane-way down the middle of the farm.

The whole operation appears to have come together very nicely – and its all got one Englishman very excited about his future in dairy farming.