Mark Spooner and Vat-Man in Te Aroha
Mark Spooner has a straightforward description of his experience using DTS Vat-Man as part of Fonterra’s Milk Vat Monitoring Solution – “as the farm owner, Vat-Man gives me peace of mind”.
Mark began trialling Vat-Man in February 2019 enabling the development of the three Vat-Man offers to meet farmers’ needs – Vat-Man Lite, Vat-Man Pro, and Vat-Man Auto.
Running a 260 cow, 110 ha organic farm in the central Waikato, before Vat-Man, Mark’s level of milk and vat monitoring was rudimentary – simply a temperature sensor on the vat linked to a display.
“We really didn’t have vat monitoring which means we didn’t have constant, reliable data coming through,” says Mark.
Mark’s lack of reliable data came to a head when the farm switched from night pickups to day pickups.
“The tanker temperature was way out to what I knew it had been, but I didn’t have Vat-Man to prove it,” recalls Mark. “Vat-Man picked up a pre-cooling issue which we were able to improve simply through modifications to the plate cooler – and not having to spend $30K on another chiller.
What Mark really enjoys about Vat-Man is the access to constant information through DTS Live for himself or his herd manager at any time.
THE VAT-MAN LIVE FEED
“Monitoring the data is easy on my laptop at home or when away. I can instantly check on milking start times, volumes and temperatures. Smart phone access to Vat-Man is even better because you have your phone on you all the time. You can compare key data by simply overlaying graphs.”
Vat-Man’s equipment alerts can also help protect milk quality for Mark and his team.
“Our system is to start our plate cooler immediately when we start milking, and then start the chiller later when there’s 3 to 400 litres of milk in the vat so it doesn’t freeze,” explains Mark. “When we haven’t started the chiller, Vat-Man gives us an alert!”
One part of the Vat-Man vat and milk monitoring solution that Mark highly rates is its in-shed digital display for milk inlet temperature, vat temperature and volume, and confirming that the agitator is on.
“I really rate it. You can just look up and see the milk temperature coming down as you are milking,” Mark says. “You can see the milk volume going up in the vat – helping you to switch to your second vat if you have one. The in-shed display means you can easily access some key information without having to pull your phone out. It’s so simple, but so effective. It becomes a habit, so I am constantly looking at it!”
So, with Vat-Man installed, Mark now has peace of mind that he has reliable data to show his milk and vat temperatures are compliant.
“I now have all data logged to analyse the temperature. If there was an issue with temperatures not being compliant, I can pinpoint it to the minute!”