Tuesday, 12 January 2016 16:22

Sharpen your focus on a new farm dairy

Written by  Clare Bayly
A new herringbone shed. A new herringbone shed.

The farm dairy is literally the heart of the farm and the need to replace, renovate or build new is a significant event in the life of any farmer and any farm.

This article looks at the key decision points which will sharpen your focus on the most appropriate type of dairy for your farming business.

Waikato Milking Systems has been designing and building dairy systems and technology for more than 30 years. When we first started, back in the 1980s, the average herd was 130 cows. Since then the average New Zealand herd has tripled in size to a new high of 413 cows in the 2013-2014 season.

In the 1980s, the most popular shed was a herringbone but, as farms amalgamated and herds grew, it become more difficult to find and retain skilled staff, and as the frequency and duration of milkings changed, farmers increasingly opted for rotary systems.

The good news is that if you are considering replacing, renovating or building a new farm dairy you now have more choice than ever before, of the type of farm dairy right for your farm and the design and composition of that dairy.

This article simplifies what at first glance can be a complex proposition into key decision points which, when answered, will provide clarity on your new farm dairy.

Herd size

The new dairy needs to stand the test of time and still be performing optimally in 25 years, so how big will the herd be then? Choosing the right farm dairy today will future-proof your business.

Milking time

How long do you or your team want to be in the farm dairy? Most farmers, regardless of the number of milkings per day, agree that 2.5 hours is the optimum time, ensuring the herd spends most of each day eating grass – not walking to or from the dairy or waiting to be milked.


How many people do you want in the farm dairy? Herringbones – depending on the length of the pit – often require two or more staff to milk efficiently whereas with automation one person can efficiently milk 1000 cows in a 60-bail rotary.


What technology do you want to include in the build?

You also want a milking system which is technologically advanced, robust and easy to operate so every member of your team, and relief milkers, can fully utilise it. Waikato Milking Systems keeps complexity out of its systems and uses technology to ensure they are easy to use and result in an uncluttered milking environment.

Components – design and robustness

The components in your new dairy need to be able to withstand heavy use. Claw clusters are exposed to continual impact and the highest risk of damage. The claw bowl is designed and manufactured to withstand the toughest use, backed up with a five year warranty.

Local dealer

Most farmers will have a relationship with a local dealer which has built up over years. Choosing the right platform and machine is one thing, but ongoing support is another and vital for the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your business.

Waikato Milking Systems says the fact that its platforms and technologies are designed and manufactured in NZ provides you with a unique reassurance of back-up support and service across the country.

Total cost of ownership

It is easy to get side-tracked by the up-front cost of renovating or building a new farm dairy but it is important to consider the total cost of ownership over the life of the building, system and technology.

You want to know that the investment you make today is future-proofed so it can easily be updated over the years to keep pace with advances in technology. You also want a system which is reliable, with reduced maintenance costs.

Choosing the right system

The type of dairy you choose is strongly influenced by farm size and budget. The decision to choose a herringbone over a rotary is closely related to cow numbers, milking time expectation and budget limitations.


When choosing the location of your new farm dairy you may want to consider the correlation of the new milking platform to your paddock layout. Proximity to essential services is critical, e.g. distance to power, tanker track and effluent ponds. You also need to consider the potential for future expansion, i.e. will the new dairy be in an optimal location if you add another block of land?

Herringbone or rotary?

The general rule of thumb is herringbone for herds up to 400 cows, and above that rotary is the preferred system.

Dairies run most efficiently when the capacity of the equipment to milk the cows matches the capacity of the labour to milk the cows. This means your staff won't be waiting for the equipment to finish, and you can rest assured your system is being fully utilised, not idle and waiting for milkers to catch up.

The higher capital outlay involved in building a rotary compared to an equivalent herringbone is justified by greatly increased labour efficiency, the opportunity for more automation and a better milking environment.

Centrus Composite Rotary Platforms

Until recently, the choice of construction of rotary platforms was limited to concrete and steel. However, Waikato Milking Systems several years ago launched Centrus Composite platforms, the first rotary platforms in the world built specifically to resolve the issues faced by large-scale farmers with operations that often run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The extreme lightness and strength of the platforms is also finding favour with farmers because the total cost of ownership is less than with traditional platforms.

The composite platforms, available in 60- and 84-bail configurations, are 80% lighter and up to seven times stronger than concrete equivalents, the lightness and strength reducing wear and tear on running gear, resulting in reduced maintenance costs.

The difference in weight and its impact on wear, tear and maintenance is obvious when you consider that an 84-bail concrete rotary platform, without cows, weighs around 45 tonnes while a Centrus 84 weighs eight tonnes. Add 67 tonnes of cows to either deck and you can appreciate that the enormous weight of concrete platforms exerts more wear and tear on the support and turning structures, requiring a higher degree of maintenance than the composite alternative.

The decks of the Centrus platforms completely cover and protect the milking machine, and the surface is impervious to milk and wash chemicals, so they look like new for life. Rubber mats in the deck surfaces provide new levels of cow comfort and an extremely quiet milking environment.

Orbit and Revolution Concrete Rotary Platforms

The Orbit (2.7m wide platform) and Revolution (1.8m wide platform) concrete rotary platforms are available in a wide range of bail configurations. The decks are 100mm thick and bails are hot dipped galvanised. The Orbit has an automatic oiling system and the deck ports allow the best cluster alignment on the market today.

Pivot Rollers – exclusively available on rotary platforms

Another world-first features in the driving mechanism of the new rotary platforms. Pivot rollers maintain perfect alignment with the platform's support structure (the 'I' beam) even under 24-hour milking conditions and/or in the event of ground subsidence. The resulting 100% contact enhances the performance and decreases wear and tear on the platform.

The pivot roller is engineered as a sacrificial component, with any contact surface wear factored into the roller itself. This means that if significant wear occurs, the rollers can be simply swapped out between milkings without the need for other engineering repairs.

Herringbone dairy systems

Waikato Milking Systems offer three in-line system options –Supa4, Loopline and Lowline.

Known for its fast, clean milking characteristics, the Supa4 has out-performed and out-sold all others in its class. A single 100mm milk pipe drains into a receiver at one end of the pit so flooding never happens and milking is fast and uninterrupted.

The Loopline milking system is designed for Midline swing-over and low-line herringbone installations.

The name stems from the looping of two milk pipes which feed into one receiver, effectively spreading the load/volume during milking and maintaining constant and stable milking vacuum.

A Lowline Herringbone provides a stable milking environment.

The milk travels downwards as in a rotary, rather than upwards as in a typical mid-line swing-over herringbone, and the milk pipes are mounted in the pit below the cow platform. The milk therefore travels straight down from the cups into the receiver, contributing to exceptional vacuum stability which speeds the milking process.

Milking systems for every farm type

Waikato Milking Systems' has won worldwide regard for its expertise in designing and manufacturing dairy systems for any farming type – from small family based farming to intensive 24 hour milking operations. ω

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