Success at test farm sees increase in production and creates buzz in the market

Richard van Ras and his son Johan, milk around 220 cows on their 77-hectare family farm in Morrinsville, in New Zealand’s Waikato region. This is their eighth season and, until now, the farm’s water quality hasn’t been up to scratch with high levels of iron and manganese which, although common in the area, can be detrimental to both equipment and animal health.

They decided to invest in change by becoming a test farm for Davey’s new Microlene for Dairy unit – a complete self-contained water treatment solution – and so far, the results have been positive.

Since installation of the new system Richard says the water is of such a quality that when the cows go to the trough they don’t lick or sniff, they just drink. “We dispense magnesium and iodine for animal health, and I am refilling it more often than in previous years, which tells me they are drinking more. We farm the same as we did last year, the area’s milk production is down 3.5% from this time last year, yet ours is up 7.5%*. We partly put that down to the fact that our cows are drinking more,” he says.

Cows on van Ras farm drinking clean water
The cows on the van Ras farm enjoying their clean water.

There has also been a significant reduction in the milk’s somatic cell count (SCC) which is an indicator of the quality of milk. The number of somatic cells increases in response to pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, a cause of mastitis. The van Ras’ SCC average to November 2017 was 87,000, compared to November 2016 where it was 140,000.

The van Ras’ have noticed the flavour and taste of the house drinking water has also improved – glasses are even coming out of the dishwasher sparkling.

HALO remote monitoring

Robert Barker, Business Development Manager Dairy Water Treatment, for Davey New Zealand has been involved with the dairy unit since its conception and says the HALO remote monitoring system has been instrumental in its ongoing development. “The beauty of the cloud based system is we can continually tweak things and check what’s going on. Going forward, as we add other products into the system, we can compare the data and monitor everything – it just makes our innovation process a lot easier to manage,” he says.

Davey team on the van Ras farm
The Davey team speaking with interested farmers
at an open day on the van Ras farm in November.

Richard says one of the main benefits of HALO is the ability to accurately monitor tank levels and water consumption. This also means the annual consent (the local government system by which water is charged to farms) will be more precise. “I’m also alerted to any waste or faults in the system right away. We had an alert on the cell phone at 1am, a fitting had come loose by the unit and it started to drain the tank. I went to investigate and I could fix it before the cows came in for morning milking – so that was good,” he says.

Robert says his team is now focused on developing their network of key Master Dealers who have a vested interest in the dairy industry, building awareness around the water testing process and ensuring they receive training in the capabilities of the system, including the water treatment process and HALO software.

Intended for official launch in early 2018, the Microlene Dairy system received positive feedback at the Mystery Creek Field Days in Hamilton, New Zealand in June and at the Elmore Field Days in Victoria, Australia in October.

“Davey have been so professional about setting things up correctly – they did a lot of tests and modifications and didn’t stop until they were happy with the results – from a customer’s view that’s a good thing. I’m a plumber by trade so I know a little bit about water and installation and they were great at explaining the system, how things work and why they’ve changed things, and showing me all the results – they’re real professionals,” says Richard.

The simple Davey system

The Modular Dairy system can be custom designed to specifically treat each farm’s application. On the van Ras farm, water is drawn from three shallow bores into a storage tank outside the unit. Before entering the unit, the water is dosed with chlorine to kill microbes and aid oxidisation of the iron. Once inside the unit, the water is treated through filtration and iron exchange to tackle the iron at various stages. Once filtration, purification and disinfection has been completed the water is then transferred for farm and household use, with a third pipe expelling backwash.

*As of August 2017

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