Waikato dairy farmers Paul and Dianne White were looking for an opportunity for their sons, Brad and Kieran, to enter the farming industry.
Paul and Dianne already had their youngest son, Andrew, contract milking on the home property. They wanted to diversify from the dairy and drystock operation as part of their family succession plan.
“We looked at what opportunities were available and then we discovered dairy sheep milking,” Paul said.
The couple visited several sheep milking and breeding properties, including Maui Milk in Taupō. “It ticked many boxes for us, like profitability, environmental impact. It looked very much like the way of the future.”
The family didn’t want to convert their existing 520-cow dairy farm near Te Awamutu so went looking for a new property. They purchased a farm at Kio Kio, between Ōtorohanga and Te Awamutu and then signed a contract with Maui Milk to supply.
The family already had a 44 aside Waikato Milking Systems plant built by dealer, Qubik, on their home dairy.
“So we started to plan a Rapid Exit System for our new sheep property through Qubik, and that led on to Waikato Milking Systems.”
Waikato Milking Systems Small Ruminants Specialist Andy Geissmann was able to lead the project to convert an existing 18 aside Herringbone cow parlour, to a 40 aside Agili Rapid Exit Sheep Milking System, the first of its kind for the company.
That involved keeping the existing building but installing new plant equipment and technology.
The family sourced their milking ewes from Maui Milk. Kieran and Brad quit their corporate jobs to focus on the property and Paul works in an advisory role.
The property, now called Green Park Sheep, is stocked with 850 sheep.
“With Andy’s help, we’ve been able to shave an hour off milking and we’re getting about 500 through an hour.
“In the near future, I reckon we’ll be able to do better, and get it down to just two people milking.”
Technology on the plant to improve efficiency included the Milking Control Unit which automatically removes the clusters. The User Switch at each cluster uses LED lights to signal the operator when milking has started or finished.
The sheep enter the parlour in a single file, managed into their bails using a self-indexing gate system. As the lead animal turns to enter the first open bail, its body triggers the gate of the neighbouring bail to open, allowing the next animal to enter. It’s an easy and fast way to load the animals.
The big advantage of the plant is its Rapid Exit System which maximises throughput. The gate uses a pneumatic system, compressed air, to lift and close quickly, quietly and safely. The exit gate on the Green Park Sheep plant is in two sections, which gives the operator the ability to release some of the animals, while keeping others in their bails.
Paul said the milking parlour and property has been set up to allow the farm to expand in the future, up to 1200 ewes.
The new plant was commissioned in September 2020 and Paul had some advice for others thinking of the move to dairy sheep.