David Hyslop has seen milking times, somatic cell counts (SCCs) and mastitis rates reduce since he moved to a new-style of milking cluster.

He has also seen a 14% increase in average flow which is helping him to achieve higher yields all round.

The DeLaval Evanza clustershe now uses feature new technology that increases flow and reduces the frequency cartridges need to be changed. “We only have to change the cartridge every 5000 milkings, our old ones would only last half that time," he said.

"It used to take us up to three hours to change the liners, now it only takes 20 minutes,” added Mr Hyslop.

Faster throughput in the parlour has come about with the change of cluster

Faster throughput in the parlour has come about with the change of cluster

The farm operates a 20/40 DeLaval swing over parlour. Two milk, whilst one guides the cows into the parlour from a variety of sheds. “It takes us about 3½ hours with about half-an-hour to set up and wash down,” he said.

With a loyal and experienced team, he has been keen to stick with his parlour and has seen significant operational improvements by changing the clusters. “We have worked with Mathers Dairy for years and they suggested the Evanza as a way for us to reduce slip offs, calm the cows and improve the efficiency at milking.

"We are milking 410 cows in the time it used to take us to milk 385 and we are seeing more milk,” he pointed out.

Mr Hyslop has worked with his father and brother to grow the family farm, Meinside, at Eaglesfield, and the herd to 465, with 410 in milk. The milk is supplied to Arla and the family are proud to be part of the Arla Co-Operative.

Cow herd numbers have grown considerable at Meinside in the past few years

Cow herd numbers have grown considerable at Meinside in the past few years

The herd has grown steadily for nearly 20 years and the farm has recently bought more land and increased numbers. “We have 300 followers now. When I came home from college in the early noughties, we were only milking 130 cows.

"It has been a steady and careful process to grow the farm and we believe we have reached a good size,” added David.

The farm extends to 680 acres and Mr Hyslop is proud that they are highly self-sufficient. “We grow 110 acres of combinable crops that is kept for the ration and the rest of the land is grass.

"In 2012, when we had a very wet year and grazing the cows became very challenging, the herd damaged 60 acres, so we took the decision to house them all year round,” he said.

With the herd well settled in a collection of sheds the farm switched to a multi-cut forage system. “We work with Graham Rae Agricultural Contracting to make the most of our grass by creating the best silage, which reduces our costs and makes the best use of our land,” he argued.

Operating a traditional, twice-a-day milking system is yielding good results for the farm. “We have two full-time staff and five part-time who are key to our system. The cows are averaging 36 litres each per day, which adds up to 10,900 litres per year,” he explained.

With this firm foundation, he has been able to turn his attention to operational efficiencies and cost control. “By bringing in the Evanza cluster, from DeLaval, we have saved time and increased yield. We have also seen improvements in cow health,” he said.

The DeLaval Evanza cluster has an easy change cartridge fitment

The DeLaval Evanza cluster has an easy change cartridge fitment

The SCC across the herd has dropped to between 90-100 from 150 and this, combined with the reduction in cases of mastitis, has shown Mr Hyslop that the new clusters have improved cow health significantly.

“We started using the clusters in the autumn and we have since seen the mastitis rate reduce from 17 in a 100 to 13 in a 100, based on just five cases in the last month,” he said. He added that the cows were more content and less fidgety during milking, resulting in easier milkings for the staff.

“The old clusters would also slip off more frequently, let in air, upset the cows and make milking more complicated than it needed to be. This new design is much easier to use and the cows are performing better too,” he added.

Since fitting the new clusters to every point in the parlour, the herd has grown by 25 cows in milk. “We have been monitoring the time it takes to milk all 410 through the parlour and we are quicker now than before we changed and only milking 385,” said Mr Hyslop.

Euan McClymont, the head dairy engineer at Mathers, has been involved with the farm for many years and been a big part of helping the dairy evolve by analysing the performance of the parlour.

This has led to peak flow increasing from 3.8 to 4.2 litres and average flow rate increasing from 2.8 to 3.2 litres per cow. Mr Hyslop said that this had been achieved by implementing good practice.

“We have excellent staff and good protocols, so by introducing better technology we have been able to make the most of this to improve our output,” he said.

The DeLaval Evanza clusters offered Mr Hyslop a cost-effective way of making operational improvements. “The clusters were offered on trial by Craig Allen, from Mathers. We saw a massive difference between the cows milked on the Evanza during the trial and in the end it was an easy choice to have a full set put in,” he added.

The farm is growing its infrastructure beyond the parlour too, making improvements to accommodate the herd in the most efficient way.

“We have built new sheds with the help of local contractor, T and G Carruthers, who has managed all the concrete and building works. We have also installed a biomass system that helps manage our slurry with a combined heat and power unit, and a drying unit which produces our bedding,” he explained.

This has been noticed by the farm’s vet who has seen improvements in cow comfort as a result of the deep bedding provided by the separation process.

“We want happy cows and making improvements like this can only go to help the sustainability of the farm and increase consumer confidence,” he pointed out.

Reflecting on the farm, Mr Hyslop is proud of what the family has achieved, and is appreciative of the help they have had. “We are lucky to have dedicated staff and good local technical support.

"Not enough young people are getting into agriculture and there is a lot of opportunity in this tremendous industry for anyone with the right mindset, willingness to learn and a positive attitude,” he argued.

But while he foresees a need to change his set up, it is more than likely the Evanza clusters will be retained.

“Regardless of which parlour we choose in the future I will be looking to keep using these clusters. They are better made, easier to use and I never want to go back,” he concluded.