Home' Otago Southland Farmer : October 5th 2012 Contents 5.10.12 Farmer
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The Magic Roundabout
By COLIN MORRISON
One day back in 1967, Taranaki farmer Merv Hicks was given
just two years by a dairy company inspector to replace his old
four-bail walk-through milking shed.
At the time, Merv was taking part in a Dairy Board
discussion group, part of which entailed visiting
farms, looking at improvements and different
ideas. Many farmers had upgraded from walk
--through to herringbone style sheds and were
complaining of the difficulty with training the cows
on the new system. Merv soon realised that the
problem lay with the individual needs of each cow,
and being able to keep cows separate in a
Merv eventually came up with the idea of milking
cows on a rotating platform where the cows had to
walk straight ahead into the separate bails, when the
milking was finished they would have to back out of
the bail and off the platform.
Merv faced problem after problem, eventually solving
each one with logic. His prototype would include a
fixed breech rail to keep the cows in place. He also
had to work out how to get the milk from the cow
and off the platform. Originally the vacuum pump
and milk pump were in the centre of the platform
powered by a rotary gland which was designed by
the engineering department at the Taranaki Electric
Power Board. Tom Hotter, an old school friend and
engineer, designed the structural side of the cow
shed, including the platform substructure and its
rollers for the princely sum of $3000.
Merv went back to the dairy inspector who pointed
him towards the Ministry of Agriculture, who
accepted Merv's proposal -- but with conditions. The
platform had to undergo a 12 month test, and
signage must be displayed announcing that approval
was being sought for the design.
On 2 September 1969, the platform turned for the
first time. The cows seemed to enjoy it, and adapted
easily to walking on and backing off the slowly
rotating platform. The cows were very well behaved,
each with its own space, and by reaching between
the back legs when attaching the teat cups, the
animal was less likely to kick out. Merv's invention was
soon approved, and slowly the rotary system began
to spread. Five were built in the first year, one even
going to the Ruakura Animal Research Station in
Hamilton. Eventually the platforms were to be built in
the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa
In 1990, Merv sold all the Turn-Style patents to dairy
technology giant Alfa Laval Agri (now DeLaval). The
first Turn-Style was built for 14 cows, but today it is
not unusual to see an 80 or 100 bail platform. The
rotation speed of a platform can be controlled so it
can be changed to suit the season. The average time
to milk a cow is about eight minutes, but it takes
longer in the flush (start of November) and less time
in the autumn.
At the 2004 Dairy Awards national finals in New
Plymouth, Merv's invention won him a Lifetime
Achievement Award for his contribution to dairying.
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