The dairy shed - get it ready right now

How many times do we wish we had attended to those small jobs that cause us a lot of trouble later? The cowshed is really the pivot of the dairy farming business and must be treated accordingly. It requires time, energy and effort to get it right. As one farmer in the South Island said "once you turn on the shed, it is like a juggernaut and needs to be treated as such". This farmer had a really big business, with numerous staff and two herds, but the same things apply regardless of size or scale.

Recently, a farmer failed to keep his bearings on his rotary platform greased, in-line and well maintained. The rotary platform was old and eventually the drive unit blew up because the platform was dragging so heavily it destroyed the unit. Not only did he then have to get the platform going smoothly, but he also had to replace the drive unit.

You also need to pay close attention to the milk plant, rubbers and hoses etc. The milk plant should be given a thorough cleaning prior to the new season, plus all rubbers and hoses replaced as and when necessary, this includes the rubbers on the milk lift pump. It is also a good idea to make a note in writing of the date when you have done all this work. Just remember to keep the plant correctly washed from day one, just because you only have milked three cows doesn't mean that you can do a slap dash job on cleaning out the milk plant, because that is when problems start. There is nothing more depressing at the start of the season than getting a series of grades.

Check that your hot water cylinder is working and at the correct temperature and that it has sufficient volume for your shed. Does the tap washer leak and need replacing on the hot water cylinder? Many do.

Does the wash down pump work properly or is it ready for servicing? Is the water tank at the shed ready, or do you need to clean it out and sanitise it to get rid of all the bugs and worms that will have accumulated in it during the season? Is the effluent system up to speed, ready for tired people to shift, or is it inefficient and difficult to move. Will you see a helicopter drop out of the sky and give you an instant fine for all those black effluent patches in the paddock?

Go around the shed and check all the welds are strong enough and there are no broken rails or gates. Repairing broken welds now can save a lot of unhappiness later.

Are the gates in and around the shed working properly? What about the access and egress from the shed? Would a small extension of concrete on the race help and furthermore reduce foot problems in the cows? Is the vat and vat stand all, clean and tidy? Does the roller door work properly etc?

The cowshed surrounds also need attention and a tidy up, as this will make the shed look more attractive and workable. Remember, you will spend 4 – 6 hours daily at the shed, so you want to make it appealing. Water blast out the shed and milk room to get it all clean and fresh. Ensure the tanker track and turn around is up to speed, so to speak.

Remove empty containers that have found their way to the cowshed. Keep sprays well away from the milking area. I represented a client in court, whose pasture spray found its way into his teat spray containers, resulting in the farmer with a very red face and 300 unfortunate cows with very red teats.

Make sure you have all your milk fever and metabolic remedies ready, with new needles (blunt ones don't work). Put them in a kit ready to grab in an emergency. Imagine it is 5:00 am in the morning, pitch black and you find you have 4 cows down and where is the doctor's kit?

Then finally, buy a new jar of coffee and some decent coffee mugs, ready for a busy season so you can have a coffee in the shed when everybody is getting tired and scratchy.

In summary, this all sounds really simplistic and it is, "everything is simple, it is just we humans who complicate things". When things do fly to bits and they will, pause and take a big breath and consider a solution, only then act. Yelling at your team in a crisis will not solve any problems. Try yelling at your dog and see what he does, it is the same for your team. So get organised now, don't leave it until the last minute, as the cows will calve early, as they do and you will be left with your apron around your knees wondering what happened.


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