A six figure investment in a two storey dairy building and
new milking and feeding equipment is already reaping rewards
in terms of efficiencies in work time and increased yields
for producer Michael Wilson.
|The new 48 x 48
Westfalia herringbone parlour
Michael who milks 270 pedigree Holsteins in partnership
with his parents Robin and Jean wanted to make further investments
in buildings and equipment at Woodside Farm, Wreay, near Carlisle,
to update the bulk tank and milking parlour which had come
to the end of its useful life after almost 30 years.
Constraints placed on further developments of the farm steading
by the West Coast main line railway which borders one side
and a sloping site which falls by around two metres, led Michael
to build a two storey building on an area formerly occupied
by a slurry store before a new lagoon was built.
The north end of the 16 metre by 46 metre long building is
infill beneath the collecting yard which links up with a single
span feeding shed which was built in 1999.
The south end of the building houses the new 48 x 48 Westfalia
herringbone parlour on the first floor which is also attached
to existing cubicle accommodation converted from a former
silage clamp three years ago and cubicles renewed eight years
ago now also housing the recently installed 12 station out-of-parlour
feeders. The new building has an office in the loft space
where there is access to the in-parlour feeders.
At ground level beneath the parlour is a new 28,000 litre
Mueller DX bulk milk tank. Specialist milking machine and
equipment suppliers GD and M Dunglinson, of Brunstock, Carlisle,
carried out all the installations.
Michael Wilson had looked at numerous parlour designs before
settling on another herringbone. He had considered a rotary
parlour but because of the sloping site a lot of ground would
have had to be built up.
The herringbone fitted well with the site and saved on investment
cost. Michael had also decided that there were likely to be
more potential mechanical problems with the rotary parlour’s
rotating concrete doughnut.
He had also considered a rapid exit parlour however this
would have made feeding in parlour difficult, which he wanted
to maintain to keep the cows quiet.
“Although we had been milking upwards of 250 cows for
a few years, our old 24 x 24 parlour was not adequate and
the milking time was too long.
“Prior to foot and mouth in 2001 when we lost our herd
we had been milking just short of 300 cows. At the moment
we’re milking 270 and we may possibly increase that
by another 20 or 30 cows but no more.
“With our old parlour our cowman Ian Teasdale would
take almost four hours from starting milking at 4.30am to
get all the cows through. The afternoon milking from 2.30pm
took three and a half hours. Now we start later in the morning
“Now all the cows can be milked in a little under two
hours,” said Mr Wilson, who also has help in the parlour
from tractor man Graeme Mcaleese and self-employed milker
George Faulder to ensure there are two people involved.
“From a welfare point of view alone it’s a lot
better for the cows as they are not standing in the collection
yard for so long,” he added.
The milking and feeding system frees up time for other tasks
around the farm as well as enabling Michael who with his wife
Suzanne has three young children – Laurence, five, Henry,
three and Emma, one - to spend more time at weekends with
Cows in the Wreaywood herd were traditionally fed in the
parlour, but since the out of parlour feeders were installed
11 months ago, the system has allowed much more flexibility
to feed to yield.
During the winter the cows are trough fed three times a week
to keep work to a minimum with a mix of 75 per cent grass
silage with 25 per cent fermented wheat wholecrop. Two thirds
of the concentrate ration is fed out of parlour with the remainder
“Prior to using the out of parlour feeders we were
able to feed for up to 37 litres but any that were yielding
over that were losing weight. With the new system we can feed
to yield – we usually have about 10 cows which are giving
over 50 litres and currently the herd is averaging 29 litres
a cow a day with an annual average of around 9,000 litres.
“Ian has always looked after the breeding, concentrating
on type and production for the herd through AI and now by
improving the feeding we are making the most of those genetics.
“Since using the out of parlour feeders we have lifted
production by up to 1,400 litres a cow. As a result, the feeders
will have paid for themselves within 18 months.”
The new parlour is fitted with P21 Metatron milk meters and
yields and a range of other cow data is monitored through
Westfalia’s Dairyplan herd management programme with
feeds adjusted accordingly.
The cows are fed concentrate to yield up to a maximum of
3kg in the parlour at each milking to avoid any being left
over for the next cow.
The lowest yielding cows are fed only in the parlour. The
highest yielders are fed up to an additional 15kg in the out
of parlour feeders. Total concentrate use for a year is currently
averaging 3.1 tonnes a cow.
Separate feed hoppers have been erected for the in and out
of parlour feeders to enable two different concentrates to
In early April the in-parlour feed was 21 per cent protein
with 20 per cent in the out of parlour feeders alongside second
cut silage. With first cut, the protein content would be decreased
to balance the ration.
After turnout depending on grass quality, the protein will
be further reduced to 16 per cent, according to milk quality.
“I had looked at TMR wagons at the time of upgrading
buildings in the 1990s but at the time it looked like it was
going to take up a man’s time for three hours every
day mixing seven loads of feed. On the system we are operating
now, every cow is fed as an individual and the value of our
higher yielders is optimised.
“The investments we have made allow us to make the
most of the advantage of scale we have. As far as business
security goes, I don’t think dairy farming is too bad.
I think there will always be a market for dairy products and
in the longer term, higher fuel prices are likely to make
An automatic shedding gate accessed through footbaths at
the parlour exit is also linked to the computer system so
that where necessary cows can be separated from the rest of
the herd for treatment and other purposes.
A separate race alongside the parlour has been built for
TB testing where cows can be held securely.
The new bulk tank replaces the former 8,000 litre tank installed
16 years ago, which now allows every other day collection
by First Milk.
“I chose this size as it’s the same capacity
as an articulated milk tanker and it would hold as much milk
as I was likely to produce.
It puts me in a better position to negotiate milk contracts
and it also saves on washing out costs with every other day
“The Mueller system is simple based on a plate cooler
which means there is less to go wrong.”
Also saving on time is the plant’s automated wash-down
Cow numbers currently total 320 with a further 180 youngstock.
The farm, which was purchased by Michael’s grandfather
in 1966, runs to 450 acres with a further 40 acres of land
rented during the summer.
The farm’s only other livestock are up to 400 easily
managed Cheviot store lambs which are bought in and kept over
© Copyright 2006 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights
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