31 July 1998

Beware millennium bug – its getting closer and closer

Will the millennium bug

scupper your milking

routine? It could pay you to

find out, as Tamara Farrant

explains in our guide

THE MILLENNIUM bug could affect some types of electronic parlour systems and milk recording equipment, so farmers should check with their local dealer for specific advice.

Most farmers will have two or three companies providing equipment or software. When the date control on one of these systems does not cope with the year 2000 it will prevent the other parts of the equipment from working.

farmers weekly spoke to some of the major manufacturers of parlour equipment and dairy management software to find out their position and policy.

Alfa Laval

Has no personal computers in its systems, so expects no problems. Andrew Reece, marketing manager of capital goods, explains: "The parts we supply are completely integrated, so do not cause any concern. There is the possibility that previous models of equipment may not go over the millennium, but there is a simple manual override."

He points out that where parlour systems are linked to a personal computer farmers would be advised to find out if the personal computer itself was compatible with the year 2000.

Dealers are about to receive a letter from Alfa Laval, explaining the situation.

Gasgoine Melotte

Steve Davis, managing director, explains that they have identified difficulties with their software, including that for milk recording and feeding. Gasgoine Melotte aims to complete the necessary changes by early next year.

"We are updating the software in the field. We have lists of people who have our software and we will be sending them upgrading kits," he says. To upgrade, an EPROM chip, which is a special kind of memory, will be placed in the circuit board to run with the new software.

Fullwood

Fullwood is in the early stages of finding out which of its products will be affected by the year 2000. A task force is working on the project, and aims to find out what modifications will be needed by the end of the year.

Peter Lancaster, chief executive comments: "Individual dairy farmers should, in the first instance, contact their installing dealer. All information relating to the companys products will be supplied through our distribution network."

Westfalia

Westfalia is the only company to claim that all its equipment has been designed to ensure the year 2000 will have no effect. Mike Morling, managing director says: "We have already sent a letter out to all our dealers letting them know that all our herd management systems will be unaffected by the year 2000. This was thought of many years ago by our technicians."

NMR

Farmplan, which sells NMRs Herdsman software for Agrisoft, recently received notification that an upgrade for year 2000 compliance was not available. It is awaiting further advice.

NMR has appointed a dedicated resource to solving its millennium bugs. Simon Taylor, head of service development says: "We will be sorting out the milk recording and the software in time for the millennium. We do not yet have a communications plan in place, but farmers do not need to worry."

Its computerised dairy information system, DAISY, has been enhanced to cater for the millennium date.

Orchid Data

"Orchid Data software has been compatible to the millennium from day one. It was written with the year 2000 in mind," says James Baile, director. In fact, one farmer has already put the software to the test by operating the wrong date by accident.

Sum-it

Since a major re-write by Sum-it in 1991, it too has had millennium compatible software. This software has the added advantage that it will change the data on old computers, so they will not create difficulties for the user.

Datag

Datag has tested all its software and believes it will all cope with the date change. "We use a language rather than a programme within a programme engine, which means that it is simple to adapt to changing needs," says director Wendy Radley.

Axient/Hylton Nomis

Hylton Nomis, taken over last year by Axient, made it clear that both the computer hardware and the programme themselves must be able to use "00". Hylton Nomis has already sent out disks to its customers so that they can test their hardware.

The clients with networks have been contacted and many upgrades have been done already. All individual farmers and advisers who are on the support maintenance contract will have amended software sent through in the near future.

Similarly, farmers using Axient farm business accounts software who are on support contracts will receive upgrades in a matter of months, claims Axient.

Farmplan

Farmplan has a similar approach. It has given farmers a list of tests to check hardware. All its recent programmes are compliant. Anyone using old programmes: CMS and Estate Rent Manager will have to upgrade to Select and Estateman respectively.

Business manager, financial manager, cash manager and payroll operate correctly for the year 2000, but do not recognise the leap year in 2000. Farmplan intends to correct this before it is required.

Will the millennium bug and milking routine affect your parlour?