Check in with Andrew for this week's installment of My Grazing week.
Recap last week:
Grass GR: 60Kg
(05th - 11th October)
SCC (‘000) 56
TBC (‘000) 5
Rotation length37 days
Life on the farm
Grass growth has slowed down to about 45kg DM/ha this week. This is a significant decrease from 60kg last week. Grass is still plentiful however and we have not yet included any grass silage into the diet.
The week remained relatively dry and as a result ground conditions are excellent.
A fifth cut of silage was taken from our hybrid grass variety. This will likely be the last of the silage production for 2017, with more than enough winter feed made.
Labour and robots
Labour is a huge topic at the moment as there is a major shortage of staff in the dairy industry, according to reports.
Robots do offer the advantage of not having to employ staff to milk your cows, or you do not have to spend the time milking them yourself. However, when you are not going to be there to manage them and the grass, what are the options and how do we operate these robotic milking systems?
A different kind of skill set is required to run the robots and the grazing aspect, when compared to getting a relief worker to milk your cows.
This could possibly be seen as a disadvantage of the robotic milking, as clearly someone has to be trained up to the farmers satisfaction.For example, if you and your other half are operating the robots between you, what happens when you want to go on a holiday? Someone gets left behind? Obviously not! We need a third person to cover!
The beauty of the robots is that while it can be difficult to get a milker, these relief workers already milking herds can work the robotic system at the times that suit them and not milking times! For example, relief milker milks cow at 06:00-09:00 and 17:00-19:00. They can do what needs to be done with your AMS between these milking times, meaning getting staff is not usually a problem!
80% of the training should be on the grazing, and how they should allocate the grass, and making sure they are fully aware of the gate change times. The other 20% of the training should include tasks such as changing the filter, washing down the robots, and making sure the robots are in action!
In general, we have found that it is not necessary to show them around the computer. At most, we show them the milking queue list and tell the relief worker to ensure no cow is waiting for too long in the yard.
As more and more of these robotic milking systems are being installed each year, more relief AMS workers are being trained up across the country. Some of these workers can be likely shared across numerous AMS farms, depending on the number of robots in the area.
You may feel it necessary to have a neighbour or a worker on call during the night, for if something was to go wrong physically with the robot. They may or may not have to be used while you are away, but it should be common curiosity to reward them regardless, and more of a reward if they were used. This way there will usually not be a problem with getting them to go on duty again for you in the future.
If something major was to go wrong obviously the technician is there to see to those problems, so that is not a concern.
Summary. For certain times it may be necessary to look into training staff to cover for when the normal staff are not on farm for an extended period of time.
Labour for AMS can often be easier to get as the working times are flexible and can be fitted in around milking other herds. A different skill set is required to run a robotic milking system and this can be a ‘pull factor’, especially for young workers wanting to get involved.
When operating these AMS systems on grass, the main focus point of staff training should be on the grazing side of things i.e. grass allocation. Remember, it is important to give yourself, and your mind, a break away from any job, especially when you live with your job 24/7 such as a farmer!
Always have a plan of action in place such as someone at hand for when you want to just turn off from what is happening on farm. You should comfortably be able to leave everything in good hands for this period of time!