06 Feb 2017

The Last 45 Years

A lot has changed in the last 45 years, milk was 5p per pint, a pint of beer 20p and to buy a mobile phone you would have needed £2,300! Liz Brown, CIS Regional Manager for Scotland shares her insight on the changes she has seen in her 45 years of service milk recording.

“In the early days of my career it was hard graft, we didn’t have the luxury of the automation that we have today. Dairy cows were kept in byres, a system based on hard physical work.  Each cow would be tied with a neck chain in numbered stalls and fed their ration in fireclay troughs.  The feeding regime involved carrying buckets from a barrow to the cow’s trough at the front of each stall, followed by hay.  What went in obviously had to come out the other end and twice a day manure would be shovelled into wheelbarrows which were taken up planks into a midden.

In the early days of milk recording I had to carry to each farm a heavy wooden box with lots of equipment including scales, sulphuric acid and centrifuge. All milk was tested on farm with farmers handing me metal cans with the milk from each cow.  The milk was transferred into plastic buckets and onto scales to read the weight, the milk was then transferred into glass bottles to sample butterfat. All results were read by eye, not a computer in sight.  All information had to be hand written for each individual cow.

The manual process meant that for some farms I would be there for one or two full days depending on the herd size.  Staying on the larger farms was essential in those days and moving between farms was always a challenge.  The banter was amazing and still is.  Many times I would find wellington boots filled with peas, eggs or stones and overall sleeves tied in knots!  All character building.  The hospitality was first class, I was accepted as one of their family and treated me like a queen.  I had a wonderful circuit of farms located from Drummore to Ardwell to Sandhead.  There were no company cars so I had to rely on the farmers to move me between farms which involved all types of transport and weather!  My farmer customers became an extended family and 45 years on I am still working across each of generations on those farms.

When parlours arrived some farms had 5x5, others had 12x12 or 20x20, now many of the larger farms have progressed to rotary parlours with up to 70 units and one of my farms has got nine robots.

Today everything is computerised with data uploaded and downloaded via our systems.  We no longer need to carry heavy equipment onto farm, we simply take samples and ship them direct to our laboratory in Shropshire and within 24hrs results are at our finger tips either on our phone, tablet or laptop.  Farmers receive all the information required to help them make decisions about improving their herd – butterfat, protein, cell counts, health testing, pregnancy checks just to name a few.  Importantly they have all the information they need for their milk buyer.

CIS has invested in new technologies, so much so the UKAS approved laboratory is one of the most state of the art testing facilities in the UK.  If extra analysis is required by farmers we can do this and we offer additional services such as pedigree packages, Johne’s, DNA all delivered with expert advice.

From milk recording on farm my role now involves managing a team of thirty milk recorders who are first class and I am proud to have them working across my region from Dalbeattie to Stranraer to Orkney & Shetland.

Who knows what the next 45 years has install but I am sure robot milk recorders, drones flying samples to the laboratory and live streaming of samples being analysed will be on someone’s radar!!”