How can working time analysis contribute to the production efficiency of dairy farms in mountain regions?
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The aim of the present study was to (1) estimate the labour input on loose and tie stall housing dairy farms in South Tyrol; (2) to develop a tool for the extension service available to propose strategies for improving labour productivity. The study performed on 102 dairy farms, half of them with tie and half with loose housing. Daily and non-daily working activities surveyed with a questionnaire. Nine tie stall and 10 loose housing farms were selected for on-site measurements to determine the working time of each activity and validate questionnaire data. Average herd size was 16.3 and 23.2 cows for tie stall and loose housing farms, respectively. Effects of housing type and herd size category on total and single working time were examined. In tie stalls and herd size smaller then 10 total working time was estimated as 270 manpower hours (MPh) per cow per year while loose housing and herd size greater then 21 cows required 82 MPh/cow/year. Labour costs were estimated as 34.9 and 19.2 Euro cents per kg of milk for tie and loose housing, while milk production per working hour determined as 56.9 and 86.7 kg/MPh, respectively. The required MPh/cow/year decreased as the herd size increased. Efficient organisation of working time with an increase in herd size might improve production efficiency and sustainability of mountain dairy farming. However, it has to be taken into consideration that because of limited space and the fact that most farmers are only working part time on farm, the improvement of labour management is of higher importance.