Milking equipment needs regular servicing to work properly and safeguard the health of the herd. Can you really afford to be without it?
With the volatile milk and feed prices of recent years, producers cannot afford to have their milking equipment performing at less than the highest level. The payback associated with a scheduled service programme can be seen in the form of increased production and less downtime due to unplanned interruptions in the milking process.
Even the process of cleaning equipment underlines the need for regular, planned maintenance. Chemicals used in the cleaning process will, over time, degrade rubber, silicone and plastic components in the system. Crevices created over time by sanitizing chemicals not only provide an excellent place for bacteria to flourish, but also create air leaks. In the long run this will lead to changes in the system vacuum, which can directly affect both animal health and the length of time each cow takes to milk. The scheduled replacement of key wear and tear items, in addition to frequent pulsation and vacuum level checks, can help ensure parlour performance and improve milk quality.
Proactive vs. reactive maintenance
How much does downtime cost? We could use these simple equations as an estimate:
(Number of cows x herd average in pounds)/Milk price in hundredweights = production per hour.
(Production per hour x milk price per hundredweight)/hours of operation in a day = cost per hour of downtime.
How does this work in practice? Take the case of a dairy milking 2,000 cows with a herd average of 80 pounds. With a milk price of $18.60 per hundredweight and the dairy milking 23 hours per day, the cost per hour of downtime is $1,293. And while the dairy isn’t milking due to equipment issues, employees are still being paid and the cows are still eating.
If a producer takes a proactive approach, they can budget annual costs associated with scheduled service of the parlour. Most equipment dealers who service milking equipment will provide annual quotes for the parts and labour needed for scheduled service on a milking parlour. Often, rates charged for scheduled service are lower due to the fact that the service is a planned event and takes place during normal business hours.
The opposite side of the coin is unplanned maintenance: typically, reacting to issues when they happen. This can lead to higher costs associated with the service call and frustration on the part of the dealer and producer. After-hour service calls are inherent with operations that run 24/7, but the goal of most producers is to limit their occurrence. In an industry where efficiency is rewarded, taking a proactive approach to scheduled service is fast becoming the standard mode of operation.