Using An Autodrafter Gate In All Seasons

“A high in-calf rate is pretty important for me, good healthy cows and trying to be as environmentally friendly as we can be.” Those are the three big drivers for Jonathan Power to get an autodrafter for his farm.  

Jonathan runs 530 Friesian Cross on 143 hectares at Lismore, Mid Canterbury. When he took over the property as the sharemilker four seasons ago, the 40 aside herringbone was completely refitted with the new plant. His earlier experience in an 80 bail rotary with a competitor’s drafting gate meant Jonathan already appreciated the value of autodrafting. With his farm goals in mind and the opportunity of a complete refit he wanted to make the best choice. He installed a DTS Autodrafter.

“We drove around a few farms and had a look at their systems. We were quite happy with what we saw and went with the DTS one. We are very happy with it."

Why did this steel work horse become first choice in a refit? Jonathan mentions a string of benefits to the quiet three-way pneumatic drafter.

  • Foremost it simplifies operations in and around the shed keeping workflow and cow flow streamlined.
  • Secondly, the drafter helps him manage cow health, in particular proactive management of lameness and seasonal activities like dairy cow mating and calving.
  • Finally Jonathan loves the ease of putting in a cows visual ID number into the DTS Live Dairy Herd Management app on his phone, farm computer or in-shed keypad, then walking away knowing the job will be done. 

It’s uncomplicated freedom — time freed up for other jobs on the farm and away from the shed.

Compare that with manual drafting. Constant interruptions to the routine in the shed and to cow flow out of the shed, having to remember every cow and be there physically to draft her. At mating season for example, even identified heats can be missed because of pushing and shoving and divided attention in the shed. One missed mating cycle due to a missed draft or a draft not going in the right direction can leave farmers $170 or more per cow out of pocket for future milk production, or possibly result in an empty cow altogether.


This is where the DTS Autodrafter is a critical support tool for managing mating. Tail paint, kmar, estrotec, and other heat detection patches are the go-to visual aids to help farmers and staff identify cycling cows. Still, there is a gap. Identification is only half the process. It is all for nothing without reliable drafting. Jonathan uses the Autodrafter together with patches and it’s a breeze.

“For mating, I don’t really need to do anything as long as I have got my patches and the cows are ear tagged, the autodrafter will draft those cows that are on heat for me.” 

Another particular benefit of the automatic drafter in a herringbone set up, is that staff do not have to leave the pit, intervene or sort animals when they exit en masse. Once the Autodrafter is in place, both mental and physical stress in the shed can be greatly reduced. Staff can stay focused on milking, looking for the visual signs of mating and keep an eye out for any other animal health issues.

Drafts can be set up from anywhere, in the shed on the keypad, at home on the office PC or in the paddock with DTS’s DTS Live Smartphone app. Farmers can have instant online access to a wide range of cow data which can be used to drafts using whatever criteria wanted. Jonathan loves this ability to draft on the move and in the moment.

“If I didn’t have the Autodrafter, I would miss the autonomy. If you have lame cows or cows on heat, I can put it in my app and forget about it. The gate will catch those cows. There might be a cow you see out in the paddock and you can note it in the app there and then or put the cow number in the key pad at the start of milking. The gate will draft her after milking rather than you having to think about it and find that cow physically.”

Already the Autodrafter stacks up as helping Jonathan achieve a good in-calf rate and good healthy cows. And it gives Jonathan time to work on creating a more sustainable operation. What’s more, over four years there’s been minimal maintenance and throughout the season there’s pretty much a constant job for the gate. “Coming September, we will be using the gate for drafting cows for metri-checking and pre-heats. And the usual, looking for lame cows.”

If you want a set-and-forget reliable autodrafting gate, talk to DTS Dairy Solutions about installing our dairy automation systems on your farm. We’re here for New Zealand Farmers.

Call 0800 500 387 or contact us now.