On Achileas Kousis' farm in Greece they milk 220 ewes (mostly Chios breed) twice a day in a 2x24 MidiLine milking system
Achileas Kousis has owned and operated Kousis Farm since February 2005. The herd includes 220 sheep of which he is currently milking 160 per day, while managing 95 lambs.
An average day on Kousis Farms starts at 6:00am with milking and it takes around 45 minutes to complete before the herd is fed. The area is then cleaned before the second milking session at noon. Then the herd is fed clover without concentrate. At around 7.30pm the sheep are fed for the third time.
Mr Kousis works closely with an animal husbandry consultant who decides the feed ratios each day and manages the herd’s overall health. Daily decisions and long term plans are made by either himself or his son. “Every day we know who must do what and if anyone is away sick or the like, we always have the whole family here so there’s always someone to take over.”
Crops and forages
Mr Kousis originally cultivated rice for a living but says in the “last few years” it was no longer profitable because of heavy price drops. At first Mr Kousis planned to move away from the area and begin with new crops but later decided on sheep farming because he says it is subsidised by the government and the local people. “We also own some cultivators which supplement our income. We cultivate other people’s crops through August when the sheep are in the dry period and the whole family helps with this. We also see others in the area who were doing crops like cotton cultivation who are now moving to sheep farming instead because there is no future in crops”.
We use total mixed ration with a feed wagon that mixes, feeds and dispenses at the same time into a feeding alley. The farm uses corn, barley, wheat, hay, clover, clover silage and cotton seed together with added vitamins and minerals. The main source of protein is a powder additive.
Kousis Farm averages 220 kilograms of milk per day and is paid 83 to 87 cents for every kilogram of milk “depending on the quality” and if he receives a bonus he can reach a maximum 90 cents per kilogram of milk. The milk’s fat content is between 6.5 and 6.8 % depending on the season and the lactation phase, while the current protein count is between 5.5.and 6.2 %. The dairy informs Mr Kousis of the milk’s bacteria count and the farm’s total bacteria count is currently between 60,000 and 80,000 cfu/ml. Mr Kousis attributes part of his milk quality success to the cooling tank his local dairy has given him on loan.
“We have access to all the dairies in the region, but we give all our milk to a dairy just 15 kilometres from the farm. Our milk is collected every two days directly from the cooling tank and the dairy uses it to produce Feta cheese”. This cheese is distributed both nationally and internationally. Some milk from the rest of the region is also used for yoghurt production.
“It is great to milk automatically with this system. The milk goes direct from the receiver to the cooling tank. The cleaning is automatically done in phases and the operation is easy – just press a button. All the sheep are calm and relaxed and the feeding is automated so there is less labour costs and efforts”.
Mr Kousis says the main purpose of this farm is to provide employment for his whole family and hopes that in the future he will continue to only need a maximum of one or two external helpers.