When the lights go out on farm

Jumping off the milk vat

Zoe leaps off the vat ladder to her Papa

Our power has become so unreliable I’ve given up resetting the microwave clock but this is far from the most serious consequence for our dairy farm. Unfortunately, we use a lot of power. There are water pumps, milking machines and, most critically, refrigeration. Our milk is stored in a stainless-steel 17,500-litre vat before it is collected by the tanker.

The vat keeps the milk at a steady 4 degrees Celsius to keep it fresh. As part of the co-op’s quality assurance program, the tanker driver records the temperature upon collection. If the refrigeration fails, we need to organise immediate collection to prevent a quality failure.

The most common cause of problems with the vat are power outages or spikes that mean we have to manually reset the compressors. That’s what happened yesterday and the milk was not kept cool enough. The co-op’s lab will test the milk to make sure it remained fresh. Fingers crossed.

Power outages also affect milking of course. There’s nothing worse than being halfway through milking when the power goes off and looks like staying off for a while. The dilemma is whether to let the cows out and know they won’t be comfortable overnight or keep them waiting in the yard and hope it comes back on quickly.

A little while ago, the electricity infrastructure company rang to do a customer satisfaction survey. I don’t think they were expecting quite the ear-bashing they got!

9 Comments

Filed under Farm, Machinery and equipment, Milk quality

9 responses to “When the lights go out on farm

  1. Hope your milk was okay. We have lost power way too often this summer too, mostly due to the dozens of storms we have had. Usually we don’t have this problem very often. Thieves stole the cables off our power generator, so it is not good when it happens.

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  2. Julie

    Do you have a generator Marian? Interested in whether more farmers are investing in one as a result of power outages following recent storms, floods etc

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  3. I hand milk, one cow at the moment but 2 next year. Unfortunately i have broken my fingers a bit playing footy and they get sore quickly but the bales are far too far away from power to invest in a mobile milker. I found a cool hand pumped machine in india that they developed for smallholders that had problems with power supply but purchasing and getting one out here is proving tricky.

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    • milkmaidmarian

      You’re the first person I’ve met who milks a cow by hand these days. How do you use the milk?

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      • General milk usage,raw, i have a herd share that gets random bottles of milk and cheese. I make a bit of cheese, but my cow is not giving much at the moment so not too much, mostly danish style fetta and cream cheese. When the Dexter calves i will go back to bigger (for me) runs of brie and haloumi and hopefully some harder cheeses.

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  4. Don’t know! Dexter hasn’t calved yet, should’ve been due about 4 weeks ago, starting to doubt she’s pregnant. I’m a rookie smallholder so am just not sure.

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