MILKING cows is the most labour-intensive regular activity on dairy farms but new research into extended milking intervals (EMI) could free up time for southwest Victorian farmers.

While remaining neutral and not advocating EMIs, the DemoDAIRY Foundation wants to know if farmers in sout-west Victoria are interested in learning more about the systems and if they would consider it on their farms.

For owner-operators, twice-a-day milking reduces free time available for family and off-farm activities, particularly at weekends.

For larger farms, paid labour is required which has become harder to find over the past 18 months with restricted availability of overseas workers.

Recent research based on farmer experiences in New Zealand has indicated it may be possible to extend the interval between milkings, without significantly reducing milk production.

It can also have benefits for herd health and reproduction.

Traditionally, dairy cows are milked twice each day, but there are exceptions to that rule.

EMI addresses the disadvantages of once-a-day (OAD) milking which has been tried in some parts of Australia.
Australian and NZ dairy industries have greatly improved the efficiency of milking cows with rotary and robot milking systems. However, these systems still require labour to operate them twice a day.

In some cases, particularly in New Zealand in seasonal calving herds, farmers have opted for OAD milking for parts of the year, while others milk 10 times in seven days, or three times in two days.

It is understood farmers in southwest Victoria and southeast South Australia are looking at different milking interval options to address labour and lifestyle issues.

EMIs are usually introduced in the last two-three months of lactation and as farmers understand it more, they extend the period, with some using 10-7 milking spreads all year.

DairyNZ is midway through a research program investigating the human, animal and pasture response to milking three times in two days (3-in-2).

The project, Flexible Milking for Healthier People and Cows, started in July 2019 and will end in 2022.
It is combining detailed research on the impacts and problems of EMI on one of the Lincoln University dairy farms with a number of EMI focus farms located around New Zealand.

It aims to see if the system enhances wellbeing due to less hours spent working on farm and greater flexibility, or increases economic sustainability through improved people and cow health.

The third year of the project will focus on modelling to predict outcomes in different flexible milking scenarios.

The following links provide more information about extended milking intervals: bit.ly/3mvY9os and bit.ly/3sOiczB.

People can register interest in finding out more about extended milking intervals by contacting info@demodairy.com.au or call Ian Teese on 0427 358 987.