South West Dairy Services: Cut energy bills in dairy and save money on milking cows

Parlours feature a number of high energy items which can increase electricity costs for dairy farmers
With the ever increasing cost of electricity taking up a large proportion of production cost, any savings that can be made in this area will help improve profit margins.

When looking at the electricity usage within a typical parlour, the high energy items are the vacuum pump, the water heating for washing and the milk cooling. South West Dairy Services Ltd can help with the costs of all of these high energy items.

One of the first things to consider is Vacuum on demand (VOD). A traditional vacuum pump runs at full speed all the time with a regulator valve to let off spare vacuum. With Vacuum on demand we simply vary the speed of the motor according to the demand requirements. In systems we have fitted we have seen savings of around two thirds of the vacuum pumps energy usage, although this can depend on individual conditions of each farm. Vacuum on demand also substantially reduces noise levels around your farm which is an added bonus, especially if your vacuum pump can be heard from the farmhouse or neighbours. This also decreases the amount of noise pollution associated with farms.

A heat recovery system is the next thing to consider. With a heat recovery system we are utilising the heat energy taken from cooling the milk into heating the water for parlour washing etc. A traditional system would normally just blow this heat away into the atmosphere using a fan. Heat recovery simply captures this heat into water which is stored in an isolated thermal store ready for when you need it. We see temperatures typically 60°C or higher being achieved and therefore saving a large proportion of the water heating costs in the dairy. This heat energy can also be utilised for other purposes such as heating a room, hand washing and feeding calves.

Plate coolers are the third main user of energy. The plate cooler is used to reduce the temperature of the milk going to the bulk milk tank. This is done by pumping cold water through the plate cooler. New plate cooler systems are significantly more efficient than the old type ones, which means many existing plate coolers are not giving the full benefit of maximum energy saving. By cooling the milk rapidly we reduce the bacteria growth in the milk, therefore maintaining the quality of your milk and maximising its value.

South West Dairy Services can look at each of these areas of your system and can advise where savings can be made. We are happy to send someone out to look at where savings can be made on your system and advise on current availability of any government or European grants available at the time of visit.

All of these energy saving improvements also reduce your carbon footprint, so whilst you are saving money you are also helping to secure valuable resources for future generations of farmers.

For more information contact South West Dairy Services Ltd on 01884 839393, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website

Automated flushing and dipping – the next step in parlour automation

With milk prices down, maximising the quality and quantity of milk produced is a priority for dairy farmers, says South West Dairy Services.

A lower cell count cow will produce more milk and this therefore means the quality and quantity of your milk production is improved along with herd health.

When teat dipping your cows it is important to dip as quickly as possible after milking to gain maximum protection, also to have consistency and reliability. Each cluster needs cleaning after each cow to stop cross contamination. New automated teat dipping and back flushing milking units ensure this is done.

Automation means human error is erased, improving labour productivity and milk parlour procedures and consistency. If multiple members of staff are involved with milking and hygiene regimes, it is hard to ensure each cow is getting consistent and reliable treatment, automation gives that peace of mind.

The Apollo™MilkSystem is an innovative, automated milking unit exclusive to GEA Farm Technologies. This first of its kind product incorporates patented technology to automatically apply post dip, through the head of the liner at the end of milking, and automatically backflush the entire cluster after detachment. This means teats are consistently and optimally dipped within the milking unit prior to unit removal.

Milking units are backflushed with a sanitising solution after each use. Exposure to mastitis causing pathogens is reduced and cows are milked with minimal stress in fewer manual steps. The results mean better milk quality and herd health. It reduces labour, increases parlour throughput and improves overall profitability.

Post dipping cows after milking prevents bacterial infections and helps maintain udder health, but the dip must be applied properly. The Apollo™MilkSystem ensures that cows are dipped completely and consistently at every milking. It applies post dip to each teat while the teat is still under vacuum and stretched out in the liner, optimally covering the teat surface with dip and sanitising the area before it is exposed to the external environment. This method allows the dip to penetrate into all of the folds and wrinkles of the teats, further enhancing the mastitis prevention benefits of post dipping. The amount of dip applied is also accurately controlled. This can reduce the total amount of dip used when compared to other methods. And, it ensures the dip that is applied is always fresh and free from contamination.

Automatic backflushing is an aid to mastitis prevention. Mastitis and disease carrying bacteria can be transferred from cow to cow through the milking unit. The Apollo™MilkSystem prevents the spread of bacteria through its automatic backflushing component. After the consistent and reliable post dipping of each cow, every milking unit is automatically backflushed with a sanitising solution after unit removal. Alternating water and sanitising cycles with bursts of air creates powerful turbulence inside the teat cups and bowl of the milking unit, which greatly reduces the total amount of water required to effectively backflush; especially when compared to older, traditional backflush technology.

For further details or interest in joining an open day in Dover to see this system in action, contact Southwest Dairy Services Ltd on 01884 839393 or by email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

South West Dairy Services’ sound advice

With the current milk price in decline it is more important than ever to make sure you are getting the highest price possible. Ensuring your cows are in top condition and your equipment routinely maintained will help you achieve that. Many udder health, bactoscan and production problems are caused by milking systems needing routine maintenance.

The most intensely used equipment on a dairy operation is within the milking system. Research proves that proper performance of this equipment has a positive influence on milk quality, cow health and the parlour. Because of its intensive use under tough environmental conditions, milking system performance and reliability will deteriorate over time if proper care is not given, having a significant impact on profitability. If a dairy is not on a scheduled maintenance program, milk quality, cow health, and parlour performance – and therefore profitability – are compromised. In short, they are compromising their profitability.

Liner Change

Have you ever had elevated cell count or mastitis issues shortly after replacing your liners and blamed the new liners? The problem is normally caused by the change in elasticity from the very worn overdue liner to a tight new liner. Cows are very sensitive to change. Replacing your liners on time so the change in elasticity is not so great will stop this problem. An increase is herd size is often over-looked, but it means liner change and servicing may need doing more frequently. An industry benchmark is 2,500 cow milkings as a guide for liner change.

Pulsation performance and vacuum levels can be checked by one of our ‘Parloursafe’ qualified engineers to ISO6690 level. Checking pulsation and vacuum levels at regular intervals is crucial to maintaining the performance of your system and making sure the cows are milked optimally. Periodically measuring a vacuum system’s effective air flow reserve allows for early detection and prevention of cleaning problems, before build-up can occur, bacteria counts increase, and milk quality is affected. Performing visual inspections on critical points in the milking system like receivers, claws, flow meters, and milk pipelines helps keep key components operating optimally, while .

Replace Rubber Goods

Aged rubber components are difficult to clean, and they harbour bacteria, driving up bactoscan numbers. Rubber components always need to be replaced in a timely manner.

Using these simple steps to keep your parlour in peak performance along with regular servicing will help you keep your yields and milk quality high make sure you are achieving the maximum price possible.

Call South West Dairy Services Phil and Rachel Squires on 01884 839393 for servicing advice

Heat detection lowers calving index and boosts dairy profits

How important is your calving index? With ever increasing pressures on your time, and the fact that a lot of bulling activity happens at night and in the early hours, this is something that can prove difficult to keep track of and can easily slip.

Studies by Kingshay and others have shown that there is a loss of around £5 per cow, per day, for every day over 365 days on your calving index. These figures are based on a herd average of 8,500 litres. At a time when every penny counts, early heat detection and increased conception rate leading to a lower calving index, is a way of increasing your profit margins at a relatively small cost. Based on these figures you can work out for yourself the potential savings to be made.

Monitoring cows for heat detection using specific software can reduce labour, increase pregnancy rates, decrease days open and limit false inseminations therefore reducing straw costs.

The eating habits and rumination of cows can also be monitored using one of the systems such as CowScout. This information is updated from the cow every 15 minutes; therefore this is live information of what is happening to the cow in real time. Data is stored with cloud technology, making it accessible anytime, anywhere; you are not limited to the office. The system has the ability to send a message to your mobile phone or computer to tell you when a cow is on heat, freeing up your time.

A free iPad mini* is now available with CowScout allowing you to make the most of this freedom

South West Dairy Services Ltd offers a number of options regarding heat detection. We supply products that are robust and vigorously tested. GEA CowScout uses ultra-high frequency (UHF) wireless signals which are not obstructed by dirt, manure, or internal building components, which can be common with other systems. Plus, the UHF technology provides a wider read range including a long-range antenna, enabling barn or grazing monitoring of the cows. Independent data capture is used meaning it will not interfere with any other cow ID system currently used on the farm.

We have options of stand along systems or systems that will integrate into your Milking parlour management and segregation equipment, subject to compatibility. There are options of neck or leg fittings. Our CowScout system with neck collar monitors activity, eating and rumination while the leg version monitors activity and resting. This means you can choose a system that fits your herd and your farm. This is not expensive to start-up and no complex software is required.

You will start to see the benefits of this system within a few weeks of installation as you will be getting a more accurate pin point of the heat leading to higher conception rates.

For more information contact South West Dairy Services Ltd on 01884 839393 on visit the website to start saving money today.

WESTCOUNTRY FARMER: Helping to keep West's parlours in the game

There isn’t much that Phil and Rachel Squires don’t know about dairy farmers.

Since taking over what was a very small company in 1999, the couple have seen their business, South West Dairy Services, go from strength to strength, increasing the number of staff to 24 and a significant rise in turnover. “There were three of us in the company back then,” said Phil. “The boss of the company died and his wife wanted to get out of it so we ended up taking over. From that time we’ve grown an awful lot, with six or seven times the turnover we had in 1999.”

South West Dairy Services, based near Cullompton, has grown to offer a complete range of services to the industry, including planning and installation of new dairy systems, dairy hygiene solutions, service and spares, parlour testing to ISO standards and borehole and water solutions.

However, out of all the services on offer to customers, the MIone robotic milking system and the MullerUp automated feeding systems are undoubtedly the grandest. Installing the first milking and feeding systems in the UK and earning themselves the title of the main GEA Farm Technologies dealer in the South West, the couple have never been afraid to get ahead of the game and admit that they have always been open to innovation. Built with market-leading dairy technology, the systems are revolutionising the traditional parlour experience and as Phil and Rachel explain, giving dairy farmers their life back.

“We’re finding that most of our customers with robots are actually getting a life again, suddenly they have teatime with the family and that is the sort of thing that makes a difference,” said Phil. “Historically they were milking cows until eight o’clock and the children had come home from school and had their tea, whereas now they can do a day’s work, instead of having their day broken up with a gap in the middle and gain the social time.”

Phil added that as filling herdsmen and relief milker roles is becoming a harder sell for farmers, more and more are turning to the robot in order to cut out the hassle and concentrate on jobs which in a traditional system would be bottom of the to-do list. “I believe that when you look at jobs on farms, the biggest problem that farmers are finding is getting people to milk cows at six o’clock in the morning and eight o’clock at night. What the robot does is it compresses the day,” he said.

“It saves a certain amount of labour but not a great amount, it redistributes it into a sensible working day and it allows the farmer and people on the farm to concentrate more on the cows, more on the cow’s wellbeing and health, rather than just milking the cows, so you end up with better looking and healthier cows. By keeping the same amount of labour and looking after the cows better, the cows will look after you better.”

Rachel added that the decision to choose a robotic milking system was often driven by keeping the next generation on the farm, and drew on one particular example of a young family in Holsworthy who have recently had a robotic milking system installed. She said: “They know that if they stick to the traditional way of milking with the hours that the children aren’t going to want to stay home on the farm. By investing in the technology and looking forward, they’re changing the hours and lifestyle and hoping that it will keep the children on the farm and their interest. You’ve still got to work hard with the automated systems but they can start to see some kind of life and I think with them being a young family that was a big thing for them, either act now or we’re going to be five-years down the line and the children won’t want to come back to the farm.”

She added: “We’re losing a lot of very bright, business management orientated young people that are seeing this life of drudgery for ‘what do you get out of it in the end’. They’re all going off to other industries and I think people are beginning to wake up to the fact that those are exactly the sort of people we need in farming if there’s going to be a future.”

A selection of installation options are available to farmers for both the robotic milking and automated feeding systems, but as Phil explains, when installing robot milking boxes, the company would always suggest a guided access system. Using a driving passageway placed in front of the milking boxes, the cows are automatically selected according to their readiness for milking. Cows which the computer recognises as ready for milking are guided into the holding area of the milking robot, with those not ready for milking sent directly to the feeding area.

“A little bit more time and thought to set up in the first place saves you an hour a day of chasing cows around and saves you food, and makes the farm more efficient,” said Phil.

Rachel added: “It’s getting farmers to realise that if they embrace the technology it’s not removing them from their cows and becoming a non-tactile industry where there’s no animal husbandry. There’s still animal husbandry but it’s more efficient and you’re actually looking after your animals far better. It’s getting them to work with the technology rather than resisting it.”

At a time when the core element of the business, in this case the dairy farmers themselves, are receiving less and less for the milk they produce, it begs the question of how the connecting industries are going to be affected. However, whilst Phil and Rachel acknowledge that some dairy producers are understandably going to be cautious with their credit cards, many are looking at how to be more efficient and cost-effective in the long term.

Phil explained: “Particularly with the dairy industry and the milk prices, we are finding that the customers that are in it are looking at being more efficient and more cost effective, how can we do it cheaper? The ones with their heads screwed on are looking at it and saying ‘hang on we’ve actually got to invest money in technology to reduce our running costs’.

“It’s going to put some off investing but we’ve found over the years that a lot of people will look at it and even when the price is down, if they can invest money to be more efficient, they will.”

Rachel added: “We saw this a couple of years ago when the prices crashed and everyone was like ‘hang on tight, where are we going to be in a few years’, but actually what we found was that people were suddenly thinking that they needed to invest, get their business management plan in place and look at a ten-year plan rather than bumbling along the way they always have.”

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