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Evening milking time for 2022


Previous studies with dairy farm employees have found that hours worked on dairy farms can make employment unattractive, mainly due to evening finish time. Irish farms are competing with industries that typically offer a 5-6pm finish time. Martina Gormley, Dairy Specialist explores this topic here

Evening finish time was cited as the critical issue for employees. Therefore this is an area that needs to be examined.With this in mind milk recording data from 2,366 herds across 23 counties over a one year (2020) were analysed. Across all herds, the mean PM finish time was 18:43pm and the length of the working day was nearly 12 hours, however there was huge variation between herds with PM finish time ranging from 16:39 to 11:22pm and the length of the working day ranging from 8.5 hours to 16.4 hours.

Relationship between milking interval and milk kg/cow/day

Milking interval is defined as the time from when the first cluster goes on in the morning to the time the first cluster goes on again in the evening. To reduce the length of the working day in a twice a day? milking scenario, previous research has shown a 16:8 hour interval split is feasible, for example morning milking start time of 7am and 3pm. In this study the mean milking interval of was closer to 10 hours. One of the reasons for having a longer milking interval in the evening is the legitimate concern of reducing milk kg per cow. However, data collected on commercial herds for the current study showed no relationship between milking interval and daily milk yield (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1. Relationship between milking interval and milk kg per day

Outside of the calving season, on most farms the last task of the day is usually milking. Therefore, evening milking start time and duration can dictates the time at which the working day ends. A key finding from this study was that milking interval had a very strong relationship with the length of the working day (Figure 2); it was a more important factor than duration of evening milking. This result shows that for many farms, changing milking time should be the first step to improve labour efficiency before any high cost solutions such as adding extra units to speed up milking.

 

Figure 2. Relationship between milking interval and length of the working day

Practical implications

As herd size grows, some adaptations to work routine may need to be made to ensure a good quality of life for both farmers and employees. A long milking interval is a driver of late PM finish time and long working days. Reducing milking interval in line with the target 16:8 milking interval has no effect on milk kg per cow per day. This provides an opportunity to shorten the standard working day on farms at no milk yield loss. This has benefits for the farmer and potential employee alike. Reviewing how work is organised and executed on the farm is crucial to changing milking interval.

If you found this interesting you might also like to read the Teagasc Dairy Newsletter - January 2022

The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily. Find more on Teagasc Dairy here