19 September 1997

PLEASURE DOWN IN THE PIT…

MICHAEL Morgan claims that he could spend eight hours in the pit of the new parlour at Degar Farm, Llanharry, Glamorgan, and still be fresh.

"We are milking around 100 cows twice a day, but larger parlours with otherwise identical specifications are working 20 hours a day in the United States," says Mr Morgan, who farms in partnership with his father, David.

"Some neighbours think we have gone over the top with our new set-up, but it is a pleasure to work in and we are looking 10 years ahead when milk buyers will be insisting producers have facilities that ensure both excellent hygiene and cow welfare."

The 16:16 Bou-Matic Xpressway rapid exit parlour was chosen after Michael Morgan visited Wisconsin to join 1800 American farmers attending an open day, and toured the companys research farm.

The parlour is one part of a completely new milking and feeding system. Included are cow auto ID, automatic cluster detachment, milk metering, an award winning automatic cow sorting system, and a collecting yard forcing gate. A magic-eye device monitors when the eighth cow is in place on each side and closes the gate to the collecting area. Concentrates are fed out of parlour from dispensers operated by the same neck strap transponders that provide identification during milking and sorting for AI.

Data relating to the feeding or sorting of each cow can be input via parlour key pads, or the office computer. Electronic reminder messages relating to cows appear above standing key pads after identification.

When the cows enter each side of the parlour, swivel gates guide them to stand at right angles to the pit. When all eight are in place the header gates move gently to force them back against the channel running behind them.

This and the absence of feeders also helps to keep the parlour clean. So, too, does the extensive use of stainless steel. When the cows on one side are finished the header gate swivels slowly through 90í, pushing out milked animals and providing a barrier for fresh ones. This exit reel gate was one of the main reasons why the Morgans went for the system. In other rapid exit parlours they looked at cows could be left standing when the exit gate reclosed.

Units are attached through the cows back legs. There are no kickbars, but restricted space between the head gate and dung channel makes it almost impossible for cows to kick backwards towards the operator. All electrical components are well protected from parlour water, and the automatic washing system has fail-safe devices to ensure separation of water and milk.

"What I particularly liked when I saw the kit working in the US was that the same specifications applied whether herds were small or very large. I spend 20 or 30sec preparing each cow for milking, but we can still get a throughput of 90 cows an hour, without hassle."

To ensure good hygiene part of the bulk milk tank is in a clean room, which is separated by a bulkhead from the other half of the tank and dairy chemical storage area.

As early users, the partners were able to get a good deal on the new system, so are reluctant to reveal what they paid. But Michael Morgan claims that the cost was similar to the price tendered by other companies on lower specification facilities.

Bou-Matic UK general manager, Derek Davies, says the price of a similar scale installation would be £80,000 plus. &#42

Michael (left) and David Morgan find their new 16:16 Bou-Matic Xpressway a pleasure to work in.

BOU-MATIC SYSTEM

&#8226 Rapid exit.

&#8226 Auto cow sorting.

&#8226 Milk metering.