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Nine Years With Linear Backing Gates

Nine Years With Linear Backing Gates

Murray Moxham is so impressed with the McConnel linear backing gate system he has on his 54-bale rotary milking shed that he can’t understand why more farmers aren’t using them.

He’d seen an article on the gates and thought they were an “absolutely grouse” idea and was even more interested after a neighbour installed some.

“I would watch his shed for hours. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. It cost about $50,000 10 years ago but that’s competitive. Until you get something that works you don’t realise how hard things were before. We didn’t realise how good the gates would be.”

Mr Moxham and his son Wayne run 650 cows on their 300-hectare organic farm at Koputaroa, Moxham Milk. Prior to installing the gates, they milked two herds and milking would take about six hours a day.

“There’s only two of us and it takes one and a half hours per milking now and we do not have to go out to the yard once during milking, the gates do it all. If anything goes wrong, I get a message, like if a cow has gone down under the gate.”

Mr Moxham says when he built his milking shed it was set up to work with the linear backing gate, but they still expected to train one herd to milk in the new shed first and leave the second herd until later.

“We thought we’d bring half the cows in but our very first milking went so well we went and got the other herd and did them all at the same time. It just made it so much easier handling the cows. The front gate was used to isolate a small number of cows to be handled onto the rotary while the rest of the herd remained calm behind the blind.”

Old methods of moving cows in for milking put the cows under stress and Mr Moxham says it was physically demanding and time consuming.

“Previously we had to go out and move the cows into the shed. The old gates would push against the cows, and they didn’t like that and they would be crammed in together and they would shit all over each other. The new gates have lots of things that make them work – because they have blinds, the cows waiting can’t see anything that goes on in the shed so they are happy just standing there chewing their cud, they are totally relaxed. The biggest advantage of the gates is the lowering of stress for the cows, they are totally relaxed. You are also dealing with small numbers in the herd – the gate has about 100 cows in front of the first part and as it moves forward, the gate behind the rest of the cows moves forward too. When it reaches the front, it lifts and goes back to separate off the next 100 cows.”

Although cows don’t like walking underneath things, Mr Moxham said the first time they used the linear backing gate one cow walked under it and the rest just followed her.

“The cows are used to the gates and when they hear them tooting they move a couple of paces. It’s totally stress-free and it makes everything easier. The cows and the people are more relaxed and the cows are clean. It’s such an easy design and the staff like it too. If the staff are happy they don’t move on all the time. Everyone who comes here is so impressed the way the shed works. There are lots of sheds like this but it’s the gates that make the difference. We have vets, MAF, the TB tester, etc come here and they all say it’s the best shed they’ve ever worked in.”

Mr Moxham says milking two herds together is easy because the gates allow the second herd to be brought in before the first has finished, allowing almost continuous milking.

“Our neighbour uses the gates and they have a couple of thousand cows, but there aren’t many people using the gates around here. I don't really know why, because I think they are brilliant. I can honestly say there has been very little maintenance and McConnel have been excellent to deal with. There were a couple of minor teething problems to do with the assembly but they were here that day and worked all night to fix it at no charge. They come and check them once a year but the maintenance has been minimal.”
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