Inside Dairy October-November 2020

October | November 2020

Your levy in action


Making milking fun again

PASTURE DEFERRAL Feeding a spring surplus in-situ

BUSTING MYTHS about milking to time


over the fence...

As we head into October, things are back in full swing with herds in the shed and mating underway. This month’s Inside Dairy is all about milking. In particular, we look at how the maximum milking time (MaxT) strategy helps to improve efficiency in the dairy, not only shaving off time, but also leading to happier people and cows. It’s worth investing time into streamlining your systems in the dairy. MaxT is a proven strategy for this, originating from a farmer problem that DairyNZ researched and trialled with farmers. Hear what other farmers have to say about MaxT in this month’s articles. Many of you will be getting your heads around the new freshwater regulations. These rule changes have different impacts across the country, depending on your catchment and farm system. DairyNZ supports the intent of the regulations: to improve our waterways. We were supportive of some aspects, such as farm environment plans, but believe there are still some significant issues to work through. Like many groups, DairyNZ strongly advocated against a number of the proposed freshwater rules, but we couldn’t reach agreement with the Government on everything. We continue to champion an evidence-based, pragmatic policy that meets water quality aspirations in a fair, efficient way. We’ll keep communicating with you on this issue, and regularly updating our website – This month, we’re inviting farmers to vote for two candidates to join DairyNZ’s Board of Directors. Our Board plays an important role in setting our strategy and deciding research investment priorities, so we encourage you to have your say on who will represent you. See the candidate profiles on page two. Voting is both online and by mail, closing 20 October. If you haven’t received a voting pack in the mail yet, call the election helpline on 0800 666 946. (Note: we’re also seeking applications for two associate directors – see page 22 for details.) Finally, our AGM is on this month in Ashburton. We’re keen for you to join us to learn about the work we’ve completed over the past year, and our plans. The AGM is at the Hotel Ashburton, 21 October, starting at 6.30pm. Please drop me a line if you have any feedback –





It’s about time Milking is becoming more enjoyable for both people and cows since Gordon McFetridge decided to adopt the MaxT (maximum milking time).

12 Busting common MaxT myths

We demystify a handful of persistent MaxT myths that have been a barrier to some farmers giving the strategy a go.

25 Feeding a spring surplus in-situ

Cambridge farmers Ian and Natalie Butler hoped pasture deferral would be a game-changer on their farm. Has it been?

Inside Dairy is the official magazine of DairyNZ Ltd. It is circulated among all New Zealand dairy farmers and sector organisations and professionals.

Tim Mackle Chief executive DairyNZ

ISSN 1179-4909




Freshwater regulations Head to

for info on what the new freshwater rules mean in your region, and how you can get support. Meanwhile, DairyNZ continues to raise

concerns on farmers’ behalf around implementation practicality. We’re working with regional councils and government agencies to resolve these issues.


Weaned calves to grazing Selling weaned calves or sending them to grazing? Make sure they’re tagged and registered in NAIT, and record the movement within 48 hours. This ensures they can be easily traced, just like contact tracing for COVID-19.



Save time at milking

On the cover: Bay of Plenty farmer Gordon McFetridge says milking has become easier, more efficient and fun again since he and his team started milking to a maximum time.

Did you know that up to 55% of your time is spent in the milking dairy? Use the Milksmart app to find out how much time you’re spending, and how much time you can save, by benchmarking your milking performance. Go to




Take 5

Due diligence ‘cuts both ways’




Vote now for DairyNZ directors

Don’t let lepto make the leap

Heating up mating Monitor your heat detection



Tried, true and coming to you

Feed matters



Benefits from top to bottom

Growing a family legacy

5. Entering your bubble One way to minimise on-farm biosecurity risks is to keep everyone’s boots clean. Ensure all farm visitors wash and disinfect their boots on arrival. Watch the ‘how to’ video at performance during mating. If there are any concerns, consider adding a fresh heat detection aid to the whole herd anytime during the mating period. A little proactivity can go a long way. Find out more about creating a heat detection strategy –



A walk through time

Just quickly



Career-changers GoDairy

Regional update

We appreciate your feedback Email or call us on 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969). Alternatively, post to: Inside Dairy, Private Bag 3221, Hamilton 3240. For information on DairyNZ visit


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

To find out how to recycle the plastic wrap used to protect this magazine during postage, visit

Vote now for DairyNZ directors

Your vote could make the difference, so don’t miss out on having your say on who will represent you.

Jim van der Poel “I am putting myself up for

DairyNZ is inviting farmers to vote by 20 October for two candidates in this year’s Board of Directors election. The successful candidates will play a key role in supporting DairyNZ’s governance and leadership. Hear from the three farmer candidates below. Colin Glass “It is my privilege to seek re-

re-election as I believe that I can continue to play a critical role helping dairy farmers and DairyNZ navigate through these changing times. New Zealand dairy farmers are leaders in on-farm production systems. “The key for us at DairyNZ to help farmers include new standards into their farming systems and to work with central and local government to make sure these are science-based and practical to implement.”

election to the DairyNZ Board for a further term. My experience: • Dairy Holdings CEO since 2001

• dairy and dairy-beef farmer • governance – irrigation and agribusiness companies • fellow chartered accountant • Young Farmers – UK exchangee, contest – runner up, practical winner. “We are confronted by change as new regulation and legislation comes into effect. This requires: • profitable businesses • a proud industry • a toolbox supported by robust science and strong advocacy • leadership. “I am committed to our future.” Cole Groves

How to vote

All levy-payers should have received a voting pack in the mail. You can vote online or by postal vote. If you have queries or haven’t received a pack, please contact the election helpline on 0800 666 946. Join us at our AGM Farmers are invited to attend our upcoming AGM to hear about DairyNZ’s highlights over the past year, our key research projects and investments, future priorities, and to vote on resolutions. Successful Board candidates will also be announced at the meeting. When: Wednesday, 21 October. Refreshments will be available from 6pm and the AGM starts at 6.30pm. Where: Hotel Ashburton, Racecourse Road, Ashburton. Directors' Remuneration Committee DairyNZ also invited nominations for one vacancy on its Directors' Remuneration Committee, which reviews directors’ payments. We received one nomination, and Shirley Trumper of Rotorua has been elected unopposed.

“Dairy farming and the industry is my passion, having progressed through the industry over the last 12 years and building my governance experience including the Associate Director role in 2018 with DairyNZ, it is now time for a fresh perspective around the Board table.

“Our industry is facing significant challenges and the role of DairyNZ is vital as long as we deliver on the levy investment our farmers make and build trust at the same time.”

To learn more about the candidates, go to


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

It’s about time Frustrated that milking wasn’t more enjoyable for his team, Bay of Plenty farmer Gordon McFetridge decided it was high time to seek help from milking expert Josh Wheeler. Several changes, including adopting the MaxT (maximum milking time) strategy, are starting to make a big difference for both people and cows.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

“A bit all over the place” is how Gordon McFetridge describes the milking routines on his farms until about a year ago. The McFetridge family – parents Dennis and Judith, with son Gordon and wife Kate – run two farms in Omanawa, Tauranga. A mature herd is milked in a 20-aside herringbone twice a day (TAD), while a young herd of mainly two- to three-year-olds is milked in a 14-aside herringbone once a day (OAD) on the other farm, 5km away. Gordon says that by late 2019, he’d become bothered by the different milking practices, cow behaviour issues, and staff complaining about slow-milking cows. It was time for a change. “We have three or four people, including me, who milk. With the mature herd, probably two-thirds of the milk was being harvested in the morning because of

The McFetridges have been farming in the Kaimai Ranges for three generations. Gordon came home to work alongside his father Dennis in 2009, after five years in the rural banking industry.

our eight-hour and 16-hour milking interval [hours between milkings], and milking was taking a long time,” he says. “The milking routine got quite messy because we were jumping around the pit looking for cows to change cups on, so we never knew where we were. We all wanted to milk the cows out completely as well, because that was our mindset. That’s why I decided to get in touch with Josh [Wheeler].” Previously, Gordon had changed the milking interval on the mature-cow farm from 10 hours between the morning and afternoon milkings, and 14 hours between the afternoon and morning milkings, to an eight-hour and 16-hour TAD interval. His aim was to have his people home at a reasonable hour in the

evenings during spring. It worked well, with the team getting home between 4.30pm and 5pm, but it meant more milk needed to be harvested in the morning, making that a slower milking. Slow milkers or slow machine? Josh Wheeler from QCONZ is a recognised milking expert and DairyNZ Milksmart consultant. After receiving the call from Gordon, he visited McFetridge Farms in February 2020. “The McFetridges have a high-genetic-worth herd, bred for milking, but when I got involved, 15 to 20 cows were labelled ‘slow milkers’. And because of the change in the mature cows’ milking interval, there was a lot of milk to harvest in the morning

Volumes at peak milk production



26 litres

26 litres

16-hour interval

14-hour interval

8-hour interval

10-hour interval

1 1 . 3

0 a



1 . 3

Changing from a 10/14 hour milking interval to 8/16 hour meant there was a larger volume of milk to harvest in the morning milking at peak lactation.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

and the milkers were getting frustrated with slow-milking cows. That was driving illogical thinking and routines,” says Josh. “Everyone had a different point at which they’d take the cups off and this led to varied row times and a lot of walking during milking to remove the cups from the slow cows.” It wasn’t all a people problem, as Gordon had suspected. Fairly quickly, Josh figured out the milking machine was harvesting very slowly, and part of the problem with the ‘slow milkers’ was the significant difference in pulsation ratio between bails. Some pulsators were milking 10% slower than others. Quickening the pulse Josh suggested to Gordon that, by implementing a MaxT milking routine, he’d be able to increase the pulsation ratio to milk out the cows more quickly. “I explained that if he used MaxT, each row would have a set maximum milking time. Therefore, the risk of teat damage during low milk flow caused by the greater pulsation ratio would be negated,” says Josh. Once Josh suggested the change to the pulsators, Gordon spent $500 to replace worn parts and increased the pulsation ratio from what was meant to be 60:40 (but was probably more like 55:45) to 65:35. These changes have resulted in a consistent milk-out speed across all pulsators, which is 8% to 16% faster, depending on the initial pulsator performance. (Josh suggests consulting your milking machine technician before changing the pulsation ratio.) Gordon says that during peak milk last spring, they were under a lot of pressure at the morning milking because the farm was first on the artificial breeding (AB) run. So, having the milking machine operating more efficiently would be a big time-saver. “We were starting really early to get all the milk out and draft

The timer was set at six minutes for each row in autumn, but it's now at eight to 8.5 minutes for spring milking.

Milking by time means everyone finishes at the same time, no matter who’s milking. Pictured is farm manager Dayne Blair.

the cows for AB, whereas in the afternoon, they flew through, so that’s when Josh suggested implementing MaxT.” Josh says the other problem to overcome was the team’s inconsistency around when to end milking. “We needed the milkers to slow down a bit and allow the cows time to milk, rather than jumping up and down the row changing cows that had finished, and machine-stripping cows that hadn’t.”

What is MaxT?

The MaxT (maximum milking time) strategy involves milking cows to a pre-determined end point, normally based on time. The idea is to estimate when about 80% of your cows have completed milking and to remove the clusters from all your cows at this time. This can increase the number of cows milked per hour, without changing infrastructure, affecting milk production or udder health.

Further details at or

Milking consultant Josh Wheeler (right) says MaxT's farmer uptake is on the rise.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

“We spend less time in the shed, making for happier people and cows.”

Less walking, less waiting Josh and the team implemented MaxT in March, and they installed a timer in the dairy. The strategy Josh recommended was to set the same MaxT time – based on the expected morning milk production – at both the morning and afternoon milkings. The target was to shorten the slowest 20% of cows at the morning milking, then fully milk them out at the afternoon milking. “The real pressure on milking times was during peak milk, so by implementing MaxT during the autumn, we planned to have the team up to speed on the milking routine for peak milk,” says Josh. Gordon says the milkers didn’t know how much time they were spending, so everyone was changing cups at different times. They felt under time pressure and their frustrations were causing the animals to become agitated. “We really didn't understand the problem until Josh explained it.” Once MaxT was implemented and each row was milked based on a set time period, everyone could slow down and take a breath. They no longer needed to make decisions about when to end milking – the timer told them. “Before we had the timer, milkers were rushing around, chasing the last drop of milk out of every slow cow, holding up the entire row. In a herringbone, without a timer, the milkers had no idea how long they were taking on each row,” says Gordon. Josh says the first cow in the row was used to set the row’s

Using MaxT hasn’t affected milk production at McFetridge Farms.

milking time, and the timer was activated as that cow was cupped. During autumn, with the lower milk production, the MaxT time was six minutes – each row was given this amount of time to milk. Instantly, milking became easier for the team, as they now spent less time walking and waiting for slow cows, reducing time


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

McFetridges' new milking routine

Meal handle


Saving time at milking means there's more time for other important tasks, like teat spraying.


Milker changing cups

Milker walking

Milker teat spraying

Gordon says it was “ a shift in our mindset” to discover that undermilking doesn't cause mastitis.

to wait. It’s much better – MaxT has made milking easier, more efficient and fun again.” Everyone in the team was involved in deciding on the new routine and how each milking task should be completed with the MaxT milking strategy. They trialled the new strategy from March 2020 until the end of the season, to ensure the system was ready to go this spring. Gordon says once they’d implemented MaxT in the autumn, they were milking 180 cows/hour with no variation between milkers. Previously, it was about 140 to 150 cows/hour but could vary depending on who was milking. “We’re aiming for 130 to 150 cows/hour during peak milking, compared to the previous 110 to 120, and to have the morning milking completed in two hours or less. In the past, milking was taking up to or over 2.5 hours in the morning during peak,” says Gordon.

in the dairy. Another notable change was that all the waiting time was now at the front of the dairy; they were typically back at the first cow with up to three minutes' wait. This meant the milkers could give cows time to exit and enter without rushing them, as they knew they had time. No second-guessing Rob Acunin, who generally milks the young herd in the morning and milks the mature herd when needed in the afternoon, says MaxT has been good for cows and people. “Waiting for cows to finish milking is a bit like waiting for someone to arrive when you don’t know what time they’re coming. Because of the timer, we don’t have to wait for slow cows to finish and we’re not walking backwards and forwards. You can check the time, get the teat spray on and still have time


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

Not a bad view from the office – Mount Maunganui visible in the distance.

Assistant farm manager (on the 'Lower Farm') Rob Acunin says MaxT has been good for cows and people.

Backing off the chase The team also learnt that leaving milk behind doesn’t cause mastitis. “That was a shift in our mindset,” says Gordon. Josh showed them DairyNZ’s animation on how the udder works. “They learnt that if there was more milk in the cistern, the cows milked faster at the next milking. So, they now know they don’t have to chase every last drop of milk,” says Josh. “I also explained that it's good practice to have control of your bulk tank SCC prior to implementing MaxT.” Dayne Blair, who milks the mature herd, says he’s stopped looking out for slow milkers, and instead now focuses on the timer to decide when to end milking. “After a while, you don’t notice the slow ones and you don’t have to stress about milking the cows right out. It helps that we’re all on the same page. It’s way easier to stick to a time and know that it’s not necessary to milk cows until their udders are pancakes.” Time for teats Another frustration for Gordon was teat spraying not being done well, which MaxT has helped them to remedy. “Previously, our teat spraying was a bit slap-happy as everyone was rushing putting it on. With the new routine, we know the time and have more time to focus on teat spraying instead of waiting for slow cows. Everyone’s doing a better job. It was one of the key things we wanted to get better at.” Spring routine This spring, MaxT times will target eight to 8.5 minutes each row at AM and PM milkings, depending on peak production. The herd typically peaks at 26L/cow, so the MaxT time will be recalculated weekly as the cows head towards peak milk. The MaxT times will then be used to set the row time. Gordon is also expecting his cows to be milking faster due to the better pulsation consistency between bails and the slightly higher pulsation ratio. “We'll have no slow cows marked because all cows will be given the same milking time,” says Josh. ”We’ll be monitoring

MaxT times as we go because we’re aiming to shorten 20% of the cows in the morning, and if we’re not doing that, we can speed up the time. If we’re shortening more than 20%, we’ll slow down the time.” For Gordon, milking by time means everyone finishes at the same time, no matter who’s milking. “In September [2020] we consistently milked 150 cows an hour, and we’re shortening 12% of cows in the morning and 3% in the afternoon. Our SCC is sitting between 90,000 and 125,000. With an efficient routine, we have a lot more time (about three minutes a row) to focus on things like pre-mating heats,” he says. “We spend less time in the shed, making for happier people and cows. MaxT has made milking more enjoyable.”

Learn more about MaxT at herringbone or

Farm Facts McFetridge Farms OWNERS: Dennis & Judith, Gordon & Kate LOCATION: Omanawa, Tauranga SIZE: 70ha (effective) for the mature herd BREED: Jersey/Jersey-Friesian-cross FARM: 260 mature cows (four years plus) FARM SYSTEM: 3-4 PRODUCTION: 110-120,000kg MS/year


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

Tried, true and coming to you

New farming practices that’ve passed the test in Canterbury are now being made available to all dairy farmers around the country.

One of DairyNZ’s key projects right now is called Step Change. It aims to help dairy farmers achieve financial gains, while making progress towards their environmental goals and adapting to pending regulations. We’ve already worked with farmers in some regions to achieve these goals. Now, through Step Change, we’ll be taking these lessons wider, testing them with farmers around the country. Head start in Canterbury Since 2018, 50 dairy farms in Canterbury’s Selwyn and Hinds catchments have been taking part in a five-year DairyNZ project that’s influencing change on hundreds of farms in the region. Under targets set by the Canterbury Regional Council, farmers in Selwyn need to reduce their nitrogen (N) losses by 30% by 2022; in Hinds, staged targets require reductions of 15% by 2025 and 36% by 2035. Along with the 50 partner farms, 210 dairy operations (out of 460) in both the Selwyn and Hinds catchments have been surveyed, and almost all have adapted their farming practices. Virginia Serra, DairyNZ’s new systems co-development lead, says many of the changes made by Canterbury farmers are relevant to farmers in other parts of the country. “The most common actions farmers reported included improving effluent systems (90%) and reducing N-fertiliser use (80%),” says Virginia. “Reducing N losses isn’t easy but this project shows it is possible – and there are a number of options available. There is a huge commitment by farmers to make changes and they’re also willing to share what they have learnt in order to help others like in the Hinds and Selwyn Project.” Top tips for low-N fertiliser use Here’s an example of how some farmers in the Selwyn and Hinds catchments have reduced their N-fertiliser use: 1. Lowering application rates to no more than 40kg N/ha in early spring and then to 0.8kg N/ha per day of round length. 2. Optimising conditions for clover growth, ensuring good soil fertility (pH, P, K and Mo) and grazing management to avoid shading of clover.

Nick Hoogeveen speaks to local farmers during a field day about how he's reducing N losses on his farm near Hinds.

3. Skipping a few paddocks from routine applications when pasture growth rates are high and silage making is not wanted/needed.

For more top tips, visit

What’s next?

DairyNZ consulting officers are now using information from the Hinds and Selwyn Project, and other similar projects, to help farmers start adapting their farm systems to make early progress. Give your CO a call today if you’d like to discuss making similar changes. Find your local CO’s contact details on page 24, or at


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

Benefits from top to bottom 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,

DHL's COO Blair Robinson is impressed by MaxT's adaptability and low cost.

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

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

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.” 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


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

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”.

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.” 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.”

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

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

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


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

myth buster

Busting common MaxT myths Maximum milking time (MaxT) is a strategy backed by research and farmer experience, but a handful of persistent myths continue to prevent some from giving it a go.

MaxT sounds too complicated

Farmers who've adopted MaxT tell us that it simplifies the milking routine. The most complicated part is calculating the maximum milking time (MaxT), which is based on how long it will take 80% of your cows to finish milking. When implementing for the first time, MaxT is typically applied at the morning (highest volume) milking. Calculate your MaxT time with the DairyNZ Milking App (Apple App store and Google Play store). Herringbone: the time begins once the first cow in the row is cupped. Then, cup the rest of the row. Once the MaxT time has passed, take the cups off the first cow and work your way down the row changing clusters, removing cups from all cows. Rotary: the MaxT time is the time taken from cups on to cups off. Once you’ve set the platform speed to achieve this time, remove the cups from all cows at the end of their first rotation, either with the automatic cluster removers (ACRs) or manually. Check out the poster included with this edition of Inside Dairy for step-by-step details on how to implement MaxT in both a herringbone and rotary.

Rotary milkers say MaxT helps to improve cow exiting and let's them focus on cupping cows.

I can’t do MaxT because I can’t work any faster

MaxT doesn’t mean you have to work faster. In most cases, you’ll be working at the same speed or more slowly. Herringbone: milkers who use MaxT say it provides a logical milking routine and less walking back and forward to deal with slow-milking cows. This allows for a longer break at the front of the pit while waiting for the MaxT time to elapse. Rotary: the platform speed is set to ensure about 80% of cows complete milking before the cups-off position. Milkers say cow exiting improves and they can focus on cupping cows. I can’t manage my in-shed feeding Meal feeding generally shouldn’t be a barrier to implementing MaxT. At peak milk, the full row/rotation time is likely to be between eight and 10 minutes, which should provide plenty of time for cows to finish their food ration. Farmers have found that, by implementing MaxT on rotary dairies with feeding meal, cow flow actually improves. The cows get used to exiting at the end of one rotation and there aren’t as many free-riders.

In general, meal feeding shouldn’t be a barrier to implementing MaxT.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

Contrary to common myths, using MaxT and leaving milk behind in the udder has no negative effects on milk quality, milk production or somatic cell counts.

this theory. In fact, there’s a greater risk of mastitis when cows are overmilked at the end of milking. MaxT often results in a better let-down and removal of milk at the next milking for slower milking cows – and reduces overmilking for the rest of the herd. Research shows that when a 500mL of strip milk is routinely left in the udder after milking, there’s no detectable increase in cell counts for both infected and uninfected quarters. MaxT will increase my bulk milk SCC Anecdotally, we know that herds milked using MaxT often see a decrease in somatic cell count (SCC). As mentioned earlier, there’s a greater risk of teat congestion, damage and mastitis when cows are overmilked at the end of milking. My cows produce too much milk to use MaxT Research in high-producing overseas systems does not support this theory. The most comparable study was in Denmark, where there was no significant difference in milk production or udder health when the ACR low-flow limit was doubled from 0.2 to 0.4kg/min, and cows were averaging 2.5kg MS/cow/d (32kg milk/cow/day). I can’t use MaxT unless I’m milking TAD Although there's been no research yet to specifically test MaxT with milking three times in two days (3-in-2) or once a day (OAD), farmer feedback suggests it can work successfully. DairyNZ is expected to begin an experiment into this in October 2020.

I can’t do it with my ACRs

ACRs make implementing MaxT simple. For most devices, this is achieved by setting the ‘Maximum Time’ setting or ‘Point Take- off’ setting (for rotaries) in the ACR to achieve the desired MaxT time (some models might need a modification from a service provider). Another way is to lift the ACR low-flow threshold (similar to MaxT). For a rotary with one operator, set the platform speed to provide the required MaxT time between the cups-on and cups- off position, so more cows complete milking by the end of one rotation. Keep adjusting the low-flow threshold until you reach your desired balance. I can’t adjust pulsation ratios when doing MaxT Increasing pulsation ratio is a good strategy to reduce milking time in situations where the risk of overmilking is low – such as when using MaxT. Increasing the pulsation ratio will mean fewer cows are shortened than the estimated 20% for a given MaxT time. A key requirement when doing this is to achieve a d-phase of ≥ 20%. • Set your pulsation ratio at 70:30 and pulsation rate at 55ppm if you have ACRs and are doing MaxT. • Otherwise, set the ratio to 65:35 and rate to 60ppm if you are doing MaxT without ACRs. Consult your milking machine technician to assist with changing your pulsation ratio. MaxT will cause mastitis

Want to learn more about implementing MaxT in your system? Go to or

No research or field study over the past 30 years has supported


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

A walk through time Where did the maximum milking time (MaxT) concept come from and what’s the research behind it? DairyNZ’s Paul Edwards looks back at the origins.

1970s The use of automatic cluster removers (ACRs) raises fresh questions about which criteria to use to end milking. A low-flow limit of 0.2kg/min or equivalent is established as the norm.


Frank Dodd runs a series of experiments in England aiming to increase peak milk flow rate, one of which includes milking first lactation animals for either four or eight minutes at all milkings, for their entire lactation. Milk yield is not significantly different between the groups.


MaxT is tested by DairyNZ for the first time. Once again, no differences in milk production or udder health are observed. A milking time of seven minutes and 30 seconds at the AM milking and five minutes and 24 seconds in the PM is used from the start of lactation, with a herd peaking at 23L/cow/day. 2007-2009

In Australia, Tim Clarke shows that a maximum milking time (MaxT) can be used successfully to shorten the milking duration of the slowest cows. MaxT can be applied without ACRs. In a subsequent study, he shortens the milking time of cows with infected quarters. He concludes that a milking regime that leaves ~0.5L of strip milk, on average, in the udder does not cause a detectable increase in cell count in either infected or uninfected quarters. Using flow rate to determine end of milking is fine if you have ACRs, but what about the 61% of New Zealand dairies that don’t have them?


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020


1999-2018 Rasmussen’s work leads to at least a dozen studies in the USA, Australia and NZ, and considerably more if robotic milking systems are included. A range of low- flow limits are evaluated, including up to 1.2kg/min. All reach similar conclusions about the lack of impact on milk production and udder health.

Danish researcher Morten Dam Rasmussen concludes that increasing the ACR removal limit from 0.2 to 0.4kg/min reduces machine-on time, improves teat condition and doesn’t affect milk yield or composition, or the incidence of mastitis.

Data from DairyNZ experiments identifies that ending milking earlier increases the milk flow rate at the start of the next milking. This explains how it’s possible to reduce milking times without compromising milk production. 2010s How effective are the different strategies when it comes to saving time at herd level? DairyNZ research concludes that applying MaxT is more effective at shortening herd milking time than increasing the ACR low-flow limit. This is because applying MaxT eliminates go-around cows in rotaries and simplifies the milking routine in herringbones, where slow-milking cows hold up an entire row.


Farmers adopting MaxT are finding it’s simpler to the use the AM MaxT time at the PM milking as well. This gives confidence that most cows are milked out in the afternoon, ensures a consistent routine for staff, and avoids the need for different settings (e.g. ACRs) for each milking.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

Career-changers GoDairy Logan and Shay de Groot were total townies before they decided to ‘GoDairy’. Their early experiences on-farm have shaped the way they now operate as bosses.

Southland-born Logan’s dairying journey started nine years ago, after working in hospitality and at the freezing works. “I always wanted to be a veterinarian – but I didn’t enjoy school so it wasn’t an option,” says Logan. “A dairy farmer friend mentioned I should jump on the Farm Source website and have a look at the jobs on there. I hadn’t set foot on a farm before my first day. Now I love what I do.” Seven years ago, Shay started working as an accountant. When she got together with Logan, she continued with that profession, travelling from the farm to work. “Once we became self-employed, I ended up being more hands-on with the farm, so I dropped back to doing part-time accounting work. It’s great that I can do both,” she says. As contract milkers running two farms 15 minutes north of Winton, Logan and Shay love working outdoors, even when the weather’s not that great. “We get to work with cows every day – they’re awesome creatures,” says Logan. “They have their moments, but they’ve got some cool characteristics and give you a good laugh at times.” Learning to be a ‘Good Boss’ Observing his early bosses gave Logan a pretty good idea of what not to do: for example, during his first farmbike training session. “The farmer had me riding up and down this hill. Thankfully, I didn’t fall off! I wouldn’t teach my staff how to ride a bike that way. You’re going to wreck your bike and your staff.” Instead, Logan says he’s learned that good communication, making the most out of people’s skills, getting together socially with staff, and taking training in small, steady steps, form a much better approach as a boss. “Also, if people make a mistake, be reasonable. Don’t rip into them – instead, teach them why the mistake is an issue.” As employers, Logan says he and Shay put a lot of value on trust and work ethic, and that looking after their staff is important. “They’re our biggest asset. If we don’t have the right people, we can’t do what we do.”

Logan and Shay (with Kyla, born in July) love working

with cows. “They’re awesome creatures!”

DairyNZ is offering free three-week Farm Ready Training, so visit if: • you know of someone who might be interested in a dairy career • you know of anyone who has recently started working on a dairy farm • you’re a farmer looking to employ a career- changer. Good Boss Being a good boss doesn’t require big changes to how you manage your team. Pick up some simple tools and tips at


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

The van Gools and current sharemilkers Wendy and Tony Roubroeks (with kids Max, Oliver and Lewis) were Fonterra’s 2018 Southland Open Gate Farm Day hosts. Photo: Fonterra.

Due diligence ‘cuts both ways’ Cromwell-based Tony and Raewyn van Gool know how important it is for both farm owners and sharemilkers to get their due diligence right before signing on the dotted line.

The van Gools live on their cherry farm at Cromwell and own a farm in the Waituna Catchment, Southland. They’re pretty big on ‘paying it forward’, offering young people a chance to get into sharemilking, just like the van Gools were back in the early 1980s. Two-way tactics The van Gools believe that before

“We were facing the $3.90 payout,” explains Raewyn. “So, we decided to start asking the shortlisted applicants to do a budget based on a $4.50 payout, along with a letter of credit support from the bank.” It’s a sign

“It’s a business relationship first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a friendly business relationship.”

At sign-up time, the van Gools fill in a Federated Farmers Herd Owning Sharemilking Agreement template, then sit down with the incoming team to discuss any changes needed. Once the partnership starts, Tony and Raewyn step back. Tony checks daily farm info online, and both make occasional trips to the farm, says Raewyn.

signing any sharemilking agreement, farm owners and applicants should carry out due diligence on each other: it’s not just a one-way street.

“That’s why we offer our applicants a reference from the outgoing sharemilker about us as farm owners and business partners,” says Tony. “We ask them for one, so why wouldn’t we give them one about us too?” Sifting and selecting Tony and Raewyn discuss what they’re looking for very carefully before screening the applicants. Tony sorts them into a five- to six-person shortlist and lets them know he’ll be dropping by in the near future. “I don’t always choose the ones at the top of the list,” says Tony. “Some of them have got the gift of the gab, but when it comes to the nitty gritty, it’s often quite different. “Before I do the visits, I only give them a couple of hours’ notice, so everyone’s on a level playing field. No one has time to clean the place up before I get there – although we don’t expect young families’ houses to be super tidy!” About four years ago, the van Gools added another step into the selection process.

“It’s a business relationship first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a friendly business relationship. You’ve

also got to give them the chance to shine.” For the van Gools, that’s the ‘cherry on top’.


Farm owners, sharemilkers and contract milkers alike should: • take time to understand what’s in the agreement • know what the agreement requires from them (including roles and responsibilities) • seek out professional advice.

For more information and tips, visit


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

Don’t let lepto make the leap Internationally, New Zealand has high rates of leptospirosis in people. Here’s how you can minimise the risk of you, your family, or your team contracting this animal-borne disease.

Leptospirosis (lepto) in cows can be easily caught by people, who can end up being sick for a very long time. Studies show dairy farmers have a high risk of being hospitalised from lepto, so it’s important to know how to stop its spread across cattle and other animals and to humans. How is it spread? Lepto is caused by bacteria that live in the kidneys of animals. It’s passed from their urine into the environment, surviving for extended periods in damp soil and spreading rapidly in flood conditions. People can be infected with lepto by direct or indirect contact with infected animal urine, including contact with damp soil and water. The bacteria get in through the body’s mucus membranes or cuts and abrasions. In New Zealand, domestic and wild animals that host the disease include cattle, sheep, deer, pigs, possums, hedgehogs and rodents. Minimising risk Herd vaccination programmes are effective and crucial to minimise the number of bacteria shed by cattle and reduce environmental contamination – but they don’t prevent all strains shed by cattle. That’s why minimising people’s contact with cattle urine is important, even around vaccinated herds. Vaccinate your herd (and short-stay beef cattle and breeding bulls) against lepto from as young as possible. Also vaccinate other species, including deer, sheep and dogs. All people in contact with animals must be aware of the risks and know what to do before entering areas where animal urine exposure might occur. Those feeling unwell must seek medical help early to prevent long-term health effects, especially if flu-like signs are present.


Use these tips to minimise the risk of lepto affecting you and others on your farm.

Keep cuts and abrasions covered. Milkers should wear heavy-duty plastic aprons, rubber boots and gloves to deflect urine splash. Practise good personal hygiene – including washing and drying hands before eating, and not eating, drinking or smoking when working around cattle or in a potentially contaminated environment. Take care with effluent disposal and spray it onto paddocks well in advance of the next planned grazing. Wear gloves when handling aborted material. Control rodents and other wildlife, particularly around stored feed. Don’t keep pigs on cattle farms.

Find out more at

Key points

1. Leptospirosis is easy for people to catch from an infected animal and its environment. 2. Dairy cattle host other strains than the ones we vaccinate for. 3.  Minimise risk by vaccinating animals, controlling rodents, practising good personal hygiene, using protective equipment, and seeking help early if feeling unwell.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

feed matters

Photo: Walling Contracting Southland Ltd

Inflating the silage stack Is it worthwhile applying additional nitrogen (N) fertiliser or feeding palm kernel expeller (PKE) to inflate spring surpluses? DairyNZ’s Kieran McCahon explores some potential costs and considerations.

After a challenging summer, many farmers have reflected on the value of homegrown silage to help meet animal demands and manage the Fat Evaluation Index (FEI) during feed deficits. This has reignited questions of whether there’s value in using urea or imported feed to inflate pasture surpluses during spring to harvest a greater quantity of pasture silage. Cost comparison: urea vs PKE Actual costs will vary between farms, depending on factors such as pasture management, wastage losses and how the silage is made (e.g. pit vs bale). N-boosted pit silage may cost around 30c/kg DM, or 2.7c/ MJ ME. This assumes a urea price of $700/t applied ($1.52/kg N), a response rate of 10kg DM/kg N, and harvesting costs of 12c/kg DM, and accounts for wastage losses during harvesting and ensiling. High rates of N already applied during spring will reduce the potential pasture growth response to additional N, and increase this cost per kg DM. Given impending limits on N use, carefully consider where the greatest value from N could be gained within your system. In comparison, at a PKE price of $280/t landed, feeding PKE to create silage may cost between 40 to 60c/kg DM or 3.6 to 5.5c/ MJ ME, after accounting for wastage during feeding, feed-out costs (e.g. fuel, repairs, maintenance and depreciation) and further wastage during harvesting and ensiling. Provided a good response to N can be achieved, at current market prices, N-boosted pasture is likely to be a more cost- effective approach. The cost of PKE would need to be below $240/t landed, with very good management, to generate silage at a comparable cost. Considerations These costs above should be assessed within your farm system, given your own attitude to risk on:

• market prices (milk, urea, PKE) • frequency and severity of summer feed deficits, and related contingency plans • cost of alternatives (e.g. reducing animal demand or the lowest cost alternative supplement to PKE) • requirements for a protein-dense feed • effect on cost structure and milk price risk • N leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. Whichever strategies you employ during spring, pasture surplus management will be critical to your success. Be proactive by identifying surpluses early through regular assessment of your pasture covers and use of a feed wedge. Actively drop paddocks out of the round when an upcoming surplus is identified, and try to consistently achieve your target post-grazing residuals. Also, remember to communicate with your contractor in advance, as their availability may be challenged this season due to COVID-19.

Key points

1. N is likely to be more cost-effective than PKE at generating silage, provided you can achieve a good N response. 2. Assess the potential value of additional silage within your own farm system and carefully consider the full costs, market and environmental footprint. 3.  Accurate surplus management is key, regardless of your strategy.


Inside Dairy | October/November 2020

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