Ian and Nat Butler
Last October lower order sharemilkers Ian and Nat Butler received a phone call from their farm owner. The bulk milk somatic cell count (SCC) for 500 cows on their coastal Taranaki farm had dropped by 60,000, virtually overnight. What had the Butlers done?
It meant getting rid of near-new rubber ware and spending money up front in a tight season, but the new VacPlus Square Liners from Skellerup started paying for themselves straight away, Ian says. Cup slip, mastitis and teat condition improved immediately, as did milk quality.
After the change, the Butlers were able to maintain herd SCC levels between 130,000 and 200,000 and achieve grade free status for 2015/16.
As of November 2016 they were doing even better, with SCC levels averaging between 85,000 and 120,000 ‘on a bad day’.
He and Nat had seen what the right liners could do at their previous farm. Over two seasons they halved a previous average herd SCC of 320,000 by using VacPlus Square Liners, looking after teat condition and following DairyNZ’s Milksmart programme.
Now on 183 hectares (ha) at Pungarehu, with two full time and two part time staff, they’ve further refined their milking process, aiming to make it easy for everyone in the shed to work efficiently together and to know exactly what is required to achieve top quality milk.
A key focus is on removing cups quickly enough, and moving rows through at 7-10 minute intervals as per DairyNZ’s MaxT system. This is particularly important with VacPlus Square Milking liners, Ian says, as they maintain constant suction at the top of the teat.
Another major priority is replacing the liners at the recommended time of 2500 milkings, after which they become worn and less effective.
The Butlers say there is no point keeping them past this point, and they use Skellerup’s formula to calculate the change interval. Last season, for example, they were on 16 hour milkings from Christmas, so all the VacPlus Squares were replaced in October 2016.
Ian and Nat are budgeting for 200,000 kg milksolids this season.