Last season was one many North Island dairy farmers are happy to have behind them, and the Bernhards of South Waikato are no exception.
Like others, first they were hit by an unusually wet spring, then the weather abruptly turned dry and they had to go to 16 hour milkings in early December. Their System 2 farm at Putararu is 126 ha effective, and peak milks 370 Friesian cross and Jersey cows. Total production for 2017/18 is 11-12,000 kg MS behind budget as a result of the climatic extremes, with 5000 kg MS lost in December alone.
Thanks in part to a change made in their milking system five years ago, however, they didn’t have to deal with unexpected milk quality problems on top of the adverse weather.
Since switching to VacPlus Square milking liners, their bulk milk somatic cell count (BMSCC) level ‘dropped overnight’ and has stayed down. “It would have been sitting at around 200,000, then it dropped to 150,000 and sat there for most of the year,” recalls Mark Bernhard, who is the third generation of his family to farm in the district. “We haven’t graded for four years.”
Mark runs the farm with the help of two full time staff, and still keeps a close eye on milking. The 50 bale internal rotary platform is over-spec for the size of the herd, but was built in 2008 when he and wife Carol thought they might lift cow numbers to 450. Now they get relatively quick milking instead – 90 minutes for two people in spring, and 50-65 minutes for the rest of the year.
With 65 cows over 10 years old in the herd, as well as a handful of repeat mastitis offenders, Mark says they have had recorded high BMSCC spikes in the past.
But the VacPlus Square milking liners have made enough of a difference that he’s never considered changing back to ordinary round liners.
“I’ve never had the square ones split, either, which did happen with the round ones. And we don’t have a problem with teat end damage. Part of that is probably because we’ve got the vacuum set correctly, and I’m in the shed all the time, so I see anything that might need fixing straight away.”
Other preventative measures for managing milk quality include a Wetit walk through auto teat spray system in the rotary exit race. VacPlus Square milking liners from Skellerup are a unique design which uses a square barrel instead of a round one to increase vacuum stability around a cow’s teat. This in turn enhances milk flow and reduces cup slip for more efficient milk out. There is also less risk of teat damage, and reduced likelihood of mastitis infection.
If you would like to benefit from the VacPlus Square difference this season, talk to your local rural retailer today or visit our dairy best practice page.