17 Jun 2016

Waiting for Christmas

From Country Life, 9:27 pm on 17 June 2016
Waikato Milking Systems

Waikato Milking Systems' new sheep and goat rotary platform Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Farm owners returning to milking and discovering what it's actually like to work in their own milking sheds, are giving milking machine manufacturers an unexpected source of income.

Sales of milking machine systems in New Zealand have fallen because of the low dairy payout. Manufacturers at this weeks National Agricultural Fieldays near Hamilton report farmers are also deferring maintenance on their milking machines.  

However Waikato Milking Systems CEO Dean Bell says there've been some strong sales of automation equipment for farm dairies.

"Quite frankly when we see farm owners going back onto the farm to do milking... historically they have had staff doing that job, so when they go back and do it themselves they often want to invest in automation to make that job easier."

Waikato Milking Systems is also diversifying. It launched its first rotary milking system for sheep and goats at Fieldays.

"It just gives us a whole new industry sector to get into so that we're not entirely getting all of our revenue from one particular piece of the economy."

Dean Bell says the company has also grown its international business from 20 percent of its total revenue three or four years ago to more than 50 percent. He says that has helped insulate it from the impact of the recent drop in domestic sales.

Dean says he's confident the milk price will pick up.

"It's like waiting for Christmas... so every time I wake up in the morning I'm one step closer to (the) milk price eventually recovering and it will recover. We just have to grind this thing out in the same way our customers do."

Colin May and Adam Franklin

Adam Franklin and Colin May Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Another milking equipment manufacturer, GEA, is also noticing a drop in orders for entire milking systems but has had a number of orders from farmers wanting equipment to increase the efficiency of their sheds so they can reduce staff numbers.

National sales manager Adam Franklin says there has been a lift in sales of automatic cluster removers.

"They take cups off automatically so you don't have to have someone standing there at 'cups off'."

Farmers are also cutting back on the used of chemicals for teat spraying. Sales of teat sprays have dropped from $35m to $28m across New Zealand in the past three years.

National sales manager for FIL, a company that supplies teat sprays and hygiene products to the dairy sector says it costs between $10 to $15 per cow each season for teat spray.

"At a $7 dollar payout (per kilogram of milk solids) there was a hell of a lot of wastage with teat sprays in particular on New Zealand farms. There was a lot of over use."

He says now the payout has dropped to $3.90 farmers are looking at the cost of each mililitre.