Farmers are bracing for a major animal rights campaign against their winter grazing practices.
As he explains, “selecting the correct milking liner for your herd is a challenge for all dairy farmers. It is the only component of the milking machine that comes into contact with the cow’s teat and so has a large influence on milking performance, udder and teat health”.
Buckman runs a herd of 700 season-supply cross-breds on 240ha on the Apiti River terraces, 46km north of Feilding.
He first learned about the plastic liners at the start of the 2017 season and realised the advantages.
“We tried them on all cups and they just didn’t work because the shut-off valve wouldn’t cut the air on all cups simultaneously because the product was so light. We then placed stainless shells on the back quarters and the lightweight shells on the front teats and it’s made a big difference.”
He experimented with this for one month and soon noticed the benefits, notably that cup slip had drastically reduced.
“The biggest advantage for me and my staff is no cup slip; its virtually nil these days, and they’re good with heifers because the cups stay on them compared with how it was before, where staff used to hold them on with their hand or a couple of minutes later and they would have have fallen off.”
DairyFlo equipment accommodates different combinations of weights to meet the farmer’s requirements. Traditional rubber liners in steel shells could be as heavy as 2500 grams including the collection bowl. A DairyFlo lightweight bowl and claw set starts at 1300 grams. Buckman’s combination of plastic in the front and steel in the back weighs 1600 grams.
“The good thing about it is you can see through them and it can tell you a story about what’s happening -- whether it’s a split liner or health issues, you can see everything.”
He also said they can minimise teat spray because the teat condition and cell count are excellent. The farmer can notice inconsistencies in the milk much quicker and remove that cluster before it contaminates the milk vat.
Lightweight shells are popular with the staff, says Buckman.
“We have left one set in the shed that has all steel shells to demonstrate how heavy and awkward the gear was previously. It also saves wear and tear on your back, wrists, arms and shoulders, keeps staff happy and helps to make it a better place to work in.”
The liners are guaranteed to last a full season or 5000 milkings, in some cases two seasons depending on herd size to shed capacity.
“You save money because the liners won’t ever crack, perish or deteriorate from chemical washings or milk fat absorption and you also save time by not having to replace the liners because they last twice as long.”
Buckman’s staff have never struck the soft plastic before and said “anything takes a while to get used to but after a few days they would never go back”.
“It’s a no-brainer because the weight of them is much easier on staff.”