Future-proofing in the dairy is the way to go, writes Westport dairy farmer John Milne.

This will be our third season using a dedicated AB facility. It came about after having an ankle reconstruction operation back in December 2019.

While laid up on the couch for a solid four months, this gave the mind a chance to wander and think what changes had to be made for the upcoming season.

Unbeknown to us that this would actually be a necessity in the very near future at the time we started construction.

Before the installation there were planks hanging off a pit rail like so many other dairy farms do or did.

The AI Tech of 13 years that we have here loves the new setup, she’s confident in her footing, there are no pinch points and the cows are relaxed while they are herringboned there to be artificially inseminated.

The first comment in the first season was “Gosh your cows are relaxed.” She says she can now solely concentrate on the job in hand instead of worrying about pinch points and unsteady footing.

We can continue milking with the ‘3 in 2’ using this facility, on the one-day milking we just simply draft out the in-season cows as they come up to the cowshed and they wait there in the facility while we start milking.

Once a week over mating we draft the cows out that need a touch-up of tail paint or heat detectors. One person can do this while we are milking.

Vets love it for total herd tests i.e. pregnancy scanning, vaccines.

The TB tester just flies through them at TB testing time – no stilts needed.

We have even calved cows in there as well.

It’s just safe and bloody handy.

In the years of using the planks we only had one fall, they just walked off the end of the plank concentrating on the job they were doing, luckily they landed on the pit mats with no injury, shrugged it off and carried on. A lucky escape I reckon.

It’s just compliance, but also could be called common sense, to keep people out of harm’s way.

Here are some things that need to be considered:

  • Make it long enough to hold a decent amount of cows – take a look at what your average day of AB consists of
  • Make it fall into an existing water flow area to capture effluent
  • Make it so it does not have to be hosed off when not in use
  • Make it weatherproof for sun and rain.

We couldn’t use existing concrete so utilised an exterior garden area to keep it practical and constructed on top of this.

Look on the LIC website they have a requirement that must be met by 2025.

Think of it as future-proofing.