With Covid-19 effectively cancelling the annual meeting of the Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA), this year’s event was conducted by teleconferencing.
We know from medical professionals that COVID-19 stays on surfaces for 2+ hours and is transferred via droplets. This means that we have to be extra vigilant with the hygiene of our shared work surfaces, and that we must maintain a distance of two metres from others to minimise its spread over the next four weeks of lockdown.
Traditionally, and especially in our herringbone milking platforms, we worked closely together and with no disinfection of our surfaces. To keep everyone safe, we now need to make changes to how we milk.
What can you do to help keep your employees and yourself safe?
Tips for working together while milking
Where possible milk with one person in the pit.
When two or more people are required to milk, set up the dairy with a set section for each milker, i.e. in a 40 aside one person milks cups 1-20 the other 21-40 and milkers keep 2 metres apart.
Bunny-hopping is the most efficient milking method in a herringbone. With spring calving herds now in late lactation, the milking pressure has lessened; so changing your system to make it safer for you, for a short period of time, shouldn’t have a big impact on milking times.
Where possible milk with only one person at cups on.
Some larger rotaries require two people for cups on and if this needs to be maintained then the milkers must always stand two metres apart.
Where rotaries have two people present for herd change overs, or one person at cups off, then it is essential that staff always keep two metres apart.
Wearing gloves during milking should be compulsory at this time. Ensure that you remove gloves once you are leaving the dairy to go home or to other areas of the farm.
After you remove your gloves, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
If two metre physical distancing can’t be achieved because you want to still do the bunny-hopping routine in a herringbone, or have two people cupping closer than two metres in a rotary, then staff must wear masks.
Communication to your team
Tell your team about the importance of hygiene when touching surfaces.
A “gloves on” rule is a good place to start, but also you should reiterate to your team that you all need to refrain from touching your faces (even when wearing gloves) and ensure thorough hand washing happens after gloves have been removed.
Advise them that coughing must be directed somewhere safe (ideally into shoulder/elbow) but definitely not towards another person or surface that will be touched by someone else. If this happens grab the soap/disinfectant and get cleaning.
Consider allocating ownership of kitchen items (knife, fork, cups etc.) or get staff to bring their own utensils.
Ensure all staff are adhering to the Level 4 home isolation rules and they are not socialising with other isolated team members or the general public.
It’s a serious time but humour will help, so try and keep the workplace fun for you and your staff.
When doing your rostering, try and minimise how many staff are in contact with one another.
If possible, consider having the same groups of staff working in shifts together over the four weeks to reduce the social contact points.
If your team size does not allow for this, consider ways that you can split tasks or stagger staff breaks to minimise contact.
Are you an essential workplace?
If you have over five people (including you) working on the farm, you must register your essential workplace with MPI.
• Article supplied by DairyNZ