Machine Milking in Israel

Ezra Shoshani, Dept.of Technology and Mechanization, Min of Agriculture

Machine milking is a relatively recent feature of Israeli dairy farming. Up to the mid-forties essentially only hand milking was practiced, in the larger collectively owned Kibbuts farms as well as in the small dairy herds of the Moshav villages. Hand labor was abundant on most farms and more remunerative farming occupations were scarce or non-existent.

The first milking machine was introduced by the then Agricultural Experiment Station at Rehovot (today's Volcani Center for Agricultural Research) in 1935. It was a portable Alfa-Laval bucket-type machine, the same to be used a couple of years later by the dairy farm of Kibbuts Qiryat Anavim, in the foot-hills of Jerusalem, where purebred Dutch cattle were kept at that time. Ever so often, dairymen and especially dairywomen found machine milking contrary to the well-feeling of cows and milkers alike and detrimental to udder health and production, to the effect, that very soon it was abandoned altogether for almost a decade.

During World War II and because of the scarcity of labour, the renewed introduction of machine rnilking was again contemplated and, after some hesitant attempts, more farms followed suit. But it was with the onset of the War of Independence (1947/ 48), that machine milking became popular and generally accepted. The severe shortage of labour combined with rapidly growing dairy herds called for more efficient milking and the reduction of hand labour. Within a very few years, all of the Kibbuts dairies and quite a number of family farms acquainted themselves with machine rnilklng. From now on, things started to move rapidly.

Right from the beginning, ICBA recognised the extreme importance of a sound milking routine and instituted its own extension and instruction personnel to that specific purpose, even long before such extension and advisory service was being made available by the ministry of agriculture. Later on, together they formed the Milking Management Committee and established regional laboratories for the monitoring of udder health and milk quality.

Herring Parlour in a Kibbuts Dairy
Obviously, milking relatively large herds with portable bucket-type machines was rather tedious and very soon the first milking parlours with elevated platforms were constructed. Some were tandem and others of the chute (walk-through) type, but finally, herringbones became the generally preferred type in large herds as well as in small family farms, ranging from 2x3 points to 2x9 points, all equipped with recorder jars. Back flushing of milking clusters, first developed by DIUK of Kibbuts Mahanayim in the early sixties, has since become standard equipment on most farms ever since. Using clear tap-water only, together with post-milking teat-dips on an iodine basis, it is regarded as one of the main weapons to fight mastitis.

With increasing herd size, on one hand and the cost of labour and its limited availability, on the other - the need for larger and more efficient milking facilities became the highlight of the seventies. The larger Kibbuts dairy farms started to build herringbones with 2x14 and even 2x16 points, all fully equipped with c. i. p. installations, instant cooling and big milktanks.

Also during this period, and with the aim of increasing the capacity and efficiency of milking still further, a few 28 point rotary herringbones were installed, However, the rather modest increase in capacity, on one hand, and the increased cost of maintenance as compared to stationary herringbones on the other, did not justify the large investment involved and the building of rotaries came to an early stop in the mid-eighties. With the introduction of the Rotaflo type of rotary parallels (turn-styles floating on water) the problems of mechanical failures were satisfactorily resolved.

The continuing quest for bigger milking capacity per manhour brought about the construction of three-sided (trigon) and four-sided (polygon) milking parlours. But be it the lack of a meticulously followed milking routine or the necessarily longer and more intricate alleys, especially with the trigon again, the increased capacity did not materialise as calculated and expected, while at the same time the investment required was considerably higher than with ordinary herring-bones. Since the increased capacity per man-hour originated essentially from a larger number of milking units operated by a very small crew (1- 2 milkers at a time), the need was felt for a higher degree of automation and a general simplification of the routine. A brief outline of developments and practices is being given here below, not necessarily in chronological order, nor in order of technical importance.

With the advent of feeding complete rations to dairy cattle, the feeding of concentrates during milking was abandoned.

Crowding gates, either mechanical or electrified, were used already in most milking parlours and had been perfected. Waiting yards were equipped with a system of sprinklers for washing udders before milking. During the hot summer months most waiting yards operate overhead showers, with or without intermittent forced ventilation in order to cool cows before entering the milking parlour. Hydraulically controlled lateral exits were installed in many milking parlours, with the aim to speed-up cows' exiting after milking.

Semi-automatic milking machines became common and permitted one milker to operate a greater number of units. Two-level vacuum (high during milkflow, then low until manual take-off) gradually gave way to automatic cluster removal. Automatic backflushlng of clusters became an integrated feature of milking equipment, as well as the automatised c.i.p. cycle after milking. As a rule, low-line systems are replacing recorder jars in almost all new installations, except in some of the smaller terms.

The mere fact, that Israeli Holsteins manifest an excellent milk let-down without manual stimulation, contributed to minimal udder preparation prior to machine attachment, without creating undesirable side-effects.

From the beginning right through to the early seventies, almost exclusively Alfa-Lava and DeLaval equipment was used for milking dairy cows in Israel. For reasons of streamlining the introduction of machine milking and at the same time minimizing the cost of keeping a ready supply of spare parts, the idea of limiting the number of manufacturers was generally accepted.

However, with the evolution of automation in dairying elsewhere and the rather impressive development of dairy farming in this country, the introduction of other well-known milking machines was imminent. Within a relatively short time, the market was flooded with equipment from different sources (mainly Alfa Laval, Fullwood, BouMatic, Westfalia, S.A.E. Afikim, Surge, S.C.R. Engineering).

Before the formation of the National Service for Udder health and Milk Quality, it was the responsibility of ICBA to have full control of the accurate functioning of rnilking machines for the overall benefit of dairy farmers. Today in order to ascertain the proper functioning of electronic milk meters irrespective of their make, the central Laboratory for milk recording keeps close control on all milk measuring equipment in dairy farms as to its compatibility with approved standards of accuracy and reliability. The technical staff checks and revises electronic milk-meters once yearly, and whenever insufficiencies are signalled by the laboratory's computerised control of milk recording data.

In the wake of a growing cornputerisation of industry and farming in general, Israeli dairying also adapted to the common trend. Local manufacturers S.A.E. Afikim and S.C.R Engineering built and protected computerised systems for milking parlours, compatible with the most advanced management of dairy farms. The electronic identification of the dairy cow combined with an activity metering device (pedometer) and an advanced milk meter, capable also of monitoring the conductivity of milk, together feed data concerning milk yield, udder health and estrus into an on-farm computer. A set of specifically designed programs enable the herdsman to keep track of the performance and behavior of his cattle and to take corrective action as required. Other manufacturers as well continue to contribute to the perfection of comprehensive computerisation of milking parlours and procedures. In 1999 Kibbuts Bet Alfa installed the first robotic milker in Israel.

In the course of the years machine milking has become an integral part of dairying. In fact, efficient dairy farming without milking machines is unthinkable. Through the services rendered by the National Service for Udder-health and Milk Quality staff, Israeli dairy farmers are able to take full advantage of the most recent developments in automation and to assure their proper implementation.
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