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ADF Milking system in the news and at exhibitions

From Dairy Farmer – November 2007

ADF: does it live up to its early claims?

With dairy farmers under greater pressure than ever and cow numbers per person rising relentlessly, any device to cut time from the milking routine has to be welcomed. So we asked several producers whether automated teat dipping and flushing was living up to its early promise.

Small jobs can make a big difference which is why many large herds – and those struggling to find skilled, English speaking staff – have chosen to turn to automatic teat dipping. Teat disinfection is recognised as one of the most important preventative jobs in mastitis control, with post-milking dipping seen as crucial in controlling contagious bacteria. But both jobs can be a hit-andmiss affair when too few staff have to cope with too many cows and a heavy workload.

So since its launch in 2005, has the automated in-cluster teat dipping and liner flushing device (ADF) led to the improvements in cell counts, lower infection rates and, ultimately, less mastitis that were claimed for it back then? However, any improvements can’t be seen in isolation, according to ADF’s consultant vet Rob Drysdale. “It only helps as part of an overall mastitis control plan and herds still need to involve their vet to tackle mastitis and rising cell counts,” he says.

Nevertheless the results are clear, and he cites one pioneering herd which has had ADF for nearly three years and seen a year-on-year reduction in cell counts. From a starting point of 300,000 cells/ml, they are now below 130,000 cells/ml. And this herd’s new infection rate of more than 100 cases/100 cows/year has been halved.

Mr Drysdale claims that producers seeking the best kit for top performance are now including ADF in their budget for new units. Others like ADF because it allows them to update their parlour and expand cow numbers, yet maintain the same staff levels and standards. ADF helps speed up milking thus creating more time to do other jobs such as heat detection or foot trimming, he adds. “Time can also be spent doing a better job in the parlour with teat preparation.

ADF improves teat condition (due to extra quick treatment after milking) which in the long-term reduces mastitis. “It also saves money on teat dip,” he says. “Manual dipping or spraying requires 10/25ml cow per milking whereas ADF uses just 8ml/cow milking,” he declares. And payback? The cost varies according to parlour size, but starts from £680 per milking point plus a one-off charge to cover the control unit and installation, and is claimed to pay for itself over two years.

Why did they install ADF?

His one-man milking unit for 230 cows needed some form of automated teat dipping system, says Martin Billington who runs Ellenhall Manor near Stafford with his father Keith. They were one of the first farms to install ADF in 2005. “We put in a 28-point external rotary in 1999 as part of a oneman unit.

We tried a walk through teat spraying race which was a disaster – most of the dip went on the cows’ bellies,” said Mr Billington. Then AirDip, the forerunner to ADF, was installed and speeded up milking time as cows didn’t have to walk over the teat sprayer, but dipping performance and running costs were unacceptable.

Switching to ADF made no extra difference to throughput. “However, we did notice that teat condition improved and our cell counts have now dropped by about 50,000 cells/ml, and mastitis cases have also fallen. “It has done a good job, and is cheaper than paying a student to stand in the parlour to just dip teats. Depending on your parlour, I think it will save you time if you are one-man milking and will also improve working conditions.”

Greenfield site
Memories of dealing with difficult mastitis cases and having to dip clusters between high cell count cows prompted dairy manager Alan Wallington to include ADF units in his budget.

Leckford Estates proposed a greenfield site unit for a 600- cow herd near Leckford in Hants and Mr Wallington was in no doubt that mastitis could be an even bigger problem with the greater cow numbers. “We brought two herds together and bought another couple in to create this 8500-litre herd, calving all year round,” he says. “Mastitis can very quickly get out of hand in a large herd plus, with so many bought-in cows, it’s easy to buy in a mastitis problem.”

The unit went live last October, with two people milking around 500 cows a day through a 48-point internal rotary. One person strips and pre-sprays, the other wipes and puts clusters on. Each milking takes three-and-a-half to four hours. ADF saved having to have an additional labour unit spraying cows after milking. “We also liked the idea of getting teat dip on to the teats as soon as the clusters are removed and thought the flushing was useful,” adds Mr Wallington. Rolling cell counts of 119,000 cells/ml when the herd started up have been maintained at around 120,000 to 125,000 cells/ml ever since – despite cow numbers trebling.

These figures, plus Bactoscans of around 12, keep the herd in the top hygiene bands for Waitrose Select Farms. “As a Waitrose-owned farm it would be a bit embarrassing if we came out of the top band, but the financial side is just as important as this is a commercially run farm.”

Overseas staff
ADF shows its benefits in large herds with big teams of staff, according to herd manager Phil Jones. He not only manages 600 cows for Kemble Farms near Cirencester, Glos, but also an international staff of eight.

The language barrier, plus the short-term nature of the labour, prompted the installation of ADF two years ago. The aim was to simplify teat dipping and cluster disinfection for the 9000kg-herd milked three times a day through a 36-point rapid exit. Two people milk, while a third member of staff fetches cows.

Automation replaced teat dipping and disinfecting clusters between cows – a regime that had been implemented to deal with a cell count problem but added at least an hour to milking. At the same time, a better backing gate was added to help improve cow flow. The upshot was a faster cow throughput with milking time falling from six hours to an average of four. Rather than reduce the number of milking operators, they now spend more time on better teat preparation. “After stripping cows out, we now allow one minute before putting clusters on. It took time, but the effect was greater milk let down.” More thorough fore milking led to mastitis being detected and treated sooner. Teat skin
quality also improved as the dip was applied all over. “And because ADF is applying dip to stretched skin, it gets in all of the cracks and creases,” he says.