Ryan Grant can’t decide what he likes the best about his new dairy – the amazing cow flow that makes it a pleasure to milk, or the automation and herd software system that have transformed the way he manages herd nutrition and health.
Ryan and his wife Kristy dairy with Ryan’s father Garry at Tongala. With a split calving herd, they have about 300 milkers most of the year.
Milking in the old dairy – suited for up to 200 cows – took 6-8 hours a day. Wanting to automate as much as possible, they replaced it with a DeLaval P2100 rapid exit herringbone with 52 units.
While the quote was competitive, an added attraction was that their local dealer, GV Dairy Supplies, could do the whole job – from site preparation, concreting and shed construction through to the installation of equipment and software. The P2100 has a good track record of robust and reliable performance overseas but the Grant’s dairy was the first complete installation on an Australian dairy farm.
When they began milking in the new dairy in November 2013 Ryan was impressed at how quickly both cows and people settled into the new dairy.
“The heifers were comfortable in the dairy from about the second milking. Within two weeks everything was running very smoothly. The cow flow is incredible and milking time has been roughly halved,” Ryan said.
He puts the cow flow down to the combination of the rapid exit design and individual stall gates which give each cow its own space in the dairy.
The Grant’s dairy incudes automatic cup removers, electronic cow identification and autodrafting, cup meters, conductivity meters, individual feeding and automatic washing system and yard washing.
While the automation features provide added convenience during milking, Ryan quickly discovered that the herd management software that drives the system – ALPRO™ – is a powerful management tool.
“ALPRO™ was really easy to get the hang of but every day I discover a new report, or a new way to use it in our operation. It is a fabulous management tool,” Ryan said.
Ryan and Gary both use ALPRO™, spending about 15 to 20 minutes a day on the computer.
“We use ALPRO™ to plan ahead. For example, we can set cows to be drafted after tomorrow’s morning milking – say for AI or a vet check. Once it’s in the system, the rest is automatic and we don’t have to think about it again.”
“The same goes for antibiotic treatments. Once a treatment is entered into ALPRO™, it won’t let us put the cups on the cow until the withholding period is up.
The Grants’ bulk milk cell count has dropped by about 150,000 in the new dairy which they put down to a combination of a clean, comfortable dairy, the automatic cup removers plus the conductivity and milk meters which enable earlier detection and treatment of clinical mastitis.
Ryan uses ALPRO™ reports to aid management decisions. For example, he monitors changes in the 7-day rolling average production of individual cows to adjust the amount of concentrate individual cows get at the dairy. And in late lactation, he uses a combination of production and calving date to stagger drying over several weeks; whereas in the past they had a blanket dry off date.
“The individual feeding system allows us to get much better value from our investment in concentrates because we can direct it to the cows that will use it to produce more milk.”