A new milking routine is sparking conversations among dairy farmers nationwide. With farmers striving for more flexibility in their routines and staffing, the “10 in 7” framework looks almost too good to be true.
Over the past few years, everyone has come to appreciate a work-life balance more than ever before - and that's not just limited to the 9-5 office job workers. Creating more flexibility in work hours and holiday/sick leave opportunities is becoming increasingly appealing for workers in all industries. Up until recently, that hasn’t even been considered as an option for dairy farmers, whose work revolves around a strict schedule, 2 milkings per day, 7 days per week.
The pandemic has changed a lot of work routines and challenged the norm in a lot of ways. Recently farmers have been working to find a balance between optimising milk production and creating a safe and healthy environment for workers. One important consideration is how you will continue to operate with staff shortages, whether it is for sick leave or creating a more healthy work-life balance. One of the big reasons people enter into jobs in farming is for the lifestyle, being close to family and spending time doing what they love.
From this, the “10 in 7” flexible milking schedule was developed. The main idea, reducing milking to 10 times in 7 days as opposed to the standard 14, without a significant loss in
production. This allows for just one milking per day in the weekends and more flexibility for staff.
An example timetable is below. It is recommended that the gap between milkings is no more than 22 hours.
The general consensus from on-farm testing shows that milk production will return to at least 95% of normal levels within 3-4 weeks. If you were to switch to once a day milking, production is expected to drop by more than 20%, whereas with the 10 in 7 framework, production generally drops by less than 5%. Depending on your priorities, many believe this is easily offset by the drop in labour and the increased flexibility.
In the first week on the new schedule you can expect to see a small drop in milk solids, however, these will come back up over the following couple of weeks as the cows get used to the new routine. These results will differ depending on the breed of the cows and other environmental factors so it is always best to do more research specific to your farm environment before starting.
The benefits? You will be working 4 fewer milkings per week, reduce overhead costs by running the milking shed less often, its easier on the cows and more flexible for staff.
Keen to try it out? Make sure to note down your production stats for the week before starting and continue to take note of changes throughout the first 4-6 weeks. This will give you a clearer indication as to whether it is a good long term solution for your farm or if you are better off sticking to the good old twice a day schedule. There are a heap of videos and articles from other kiwi farmers who have given it a go so jump online and check them out.
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