The New Milking Parlour

The first questions that must be answered in order to make balanced decisions about the type and size of milking parlour for a dairy farm are:

What is the desired milking routine? The amount of time required to complete the pre-milking routine on each cow determines the number of milking units and milking stalls that each operator can use effectually. If you want excellent milking routines (teat and udder sanitation, effective stimulation, appropriate prep-lag times) in the parlour, it must be sized to encourage the preferred outcome. A parlour that is too big will encourage the operators to take short cuts and not implement the complete milking routine. A parlour that is too small will result in bored workers and early unit attachment.

What question should you be asking your yourself?

Parlours should be sized to complete the actual milking in 1hour 30 minutes and should allow for future herd expansion. yes someone that milks a thousand cows , however they are normally batched in 250 plus

Herd sizes will continue to grow in the UK. The average herd size is now in excess of 100 cows.

This has increased steadily year on.

Against this trend many farmers are milking in unsuitable parlours and need to invest. With high labour costs, even problems recruiting labour, and higher yielding cows, the recent fashion has been to install milking parlours with a greater number of units to be handled by one operator

Installing a new parlour is an expensive, once in a generation investment and should be planned very carefully.

To remain in business do you need to invest in a new parlour?

What new parlour you will require?

Modern parlour designs have been developed for increased herd size and integrate automation in the herringbone, auto-tandem and rotary configurations. How many cows can I milk per hour comfortably? , can I expand my parlour in the future? , will my cows be comfortable? It is still shocking that cows are tight in the parlour with little concern for their movement –

Who will be operating the parlour?  How many per unit ?The skill level and motivation level of the people in the parlour will determine how efficiently the milking routine will be applied.

Will the parlour be used as a place to provide special treatment to cows? Some parlour types are more suited to providing individual cow care than others.

What is the expected production level, milking interval and cow grouping strategy? These factors will influence the average amount of time that milking units stay on cows.

What sort of work environment do you want to provide for the operators? Some parlour types are wide some are narrow , rotary parlours have static operators , speed of the rotary how fast will it run, are the units coming off half way around , long herringbone parlours take their toll on area covered , do you want territorial milking

With the answers to these questions in hand let’s continue to look at the main types of milking parlours in use today.

 Tandem Parlour

Side opener parlours usually are located on the end of a holding area with two entrance lanes similar to herringbone and parallel parlours. A gate at the entrance point between the holding area and the milking parlour holds the cow until an empty stall is ready. The parlour may be organized to allow the cows to exit in return lanes on either side of the operator area or cross over to a single return lane on one side. The use of a single return lane (compared to dual returns) reduces not only the cost of the parlour itself but also the facilities to catch and/or sort cows when leaving the parlour. A single return lane does not slow down cow flow in this parlour type because cows are released individually.

Side opening, tandem and in line parlours handle cows one at a time so a slow-milking cow does not delay the end of milking and release of other cows in the parlour. These parlours are well suited to farms that take special care about observing individual cows and practice individual cow care in the parlour. The throughput of these parlours is less affected by variations in cow milk out times the number of stalls in a side-opening parlour is usually limited to 4 to 8 for one operator and 8 to 12 for two operators. Stall lengths quickly add up to excessive walking time and difficulty in keeping track of distant milking machines. These parlours have received a recent return to interest because of extra computer controlled automation. If auto detachers are used, the detacher can signal that a unit has been removed and the cow automatically let out, the gate closes and another cow is allowed to enter the stall.

This parlour type has a high stall use rate (7 to 8 cows/stall/hour) which makes it an economical choice for farms using a high level of automation and technology and is well suited to farms with up to about 200 cows that practice a high level of management. This parlour type is not easily expandable, but if designed properly can be converted into a herringbone or parallel parlour with more milking stalls in the future.

Herringbone Parlour

Herringbone parlours are the most common parlour type in the UK, Cows stand on an elevated platform in an angled or herringbone facing away from the operator area. This exposes enough of the back half of the cow to allow access to milk her from the side and room for an arm type detacher and supplementary equipment.

Herringbone parlours are located on the end of a rectangular collection area allowing cows to enter single file as a group directly into either side of the parlour. Once milked the cows exit single file by walking straight ahead and out of the parlour. In most layouts the cows make either a 180-degree turn down a return lane back past the holding area or a 90-degree turn and out a side door or across the parlour to a return lane on the other side. Parlours with more than 12 stalls on a side benefit from rapid exit stalls to speed up the exiting process. In this case the cows walk straight away from the operator area in to a wide exit area. Normal design has a return lane on either side so cows go directly from the exit area past the holding area. However, cows on one side can be directed across to a single return lane on the other side.

Parallel Parlour

Cows stand on an elevated platform at a 90-degree angle facing away from the operator area. Access to the udder is between the rear legs, which reduces visibility of the front quarters and can make unit attachment and udder user sanitation more difficult. This configuration makes the walking distance shorter than in a herringbone parlour. The cow platform is wider than a herringbone parlour to accommodate the length of the cow. Stall fronts use small gates to position each cow. To assure that each position is filled in order, a series of interlocking fronts prevent a position from being used until the one next to it has been occupied. Most parallel parlours use rapid exit stall fronts and use dual return lanes. The stall spacing in this parlour type is critical. It is also more difficult to balance milking units on the udder in this parlour. Cows can have foot issues as they turn on a steep angle.

Swing-over Parlour

Swing over parlours the cows are placed at a greater angle from the operator (about 70 degrees) than in traditional herringbones but less than 90 degrees as in a parallel. This configuration usually eliminates the need for front positioners as used in a parallel. The sharp angle does not expose enough of the cow’s body to allow milking from the side, however. Procedures and equipment developed for milking between the hind legs are used. Milk lines are typically mounted as “mid-level” or above the head of the operator resulting in a lift from the udder to milk line of about 1 meter.

The width of the pit can vary between 5-8 feet, depending on the length of parlour and number of operators. Cows can exit single file to the front end of the parlour or to the sides of the parlour using a rapid exit type front. Maximum cow movement efficiency is attained when cows walk straight in from the holding area and exit straight out, without turning. It is recommended that the cow platform be extended 2-3 cows beyond the pit into the holding area to position these cows behind the last cow to be milked An adjustable breast rail allows adjustment of the line of cows to position the rump up against the rump rail to position the udder as close as possible to the operator pit. The rump rail can be a straight rail or an “S” rail and is usually located directly above the edge of the cow platform. A hock rail is placed approximately 8 inches below the rump rail to prevent cows kicking backward and stepping off the platform. A manure splashguard can be placed above the rump rail to direct manure to the platform instead of the pit.

The primary advantage of a swing parlour is that fewer milking units are needed and stall designs are simpler, both of which reduce the initial cost of the parlour. The main disadvantage is this parlour type is clutter and (especially for a slow milking cow and/or cow requiring special attention. This parlour type is not suited to the use of support devices and automatic detachers are typically mounted above the milk line.

Rotary Parlour

The advantage of the rotary parlour is that the cow movement functions are largely automated, freeing the operators to tasks more directly associated with milking. Rotary parlours typically require three operators: one for unit attachment, one to apply pre milking teat dip and one to tend to any problems occurring while cows are traveling around (reattach units, tend to liner lips, etc.). This parlour type is not expandable. And the capital cost is usually higher per stall than for non-moving parlours. Because of these characteristics, rotary parlours are best suited to larger herds (>600 cows). One advantage of a rotary parlour is that the work routine very territorial and constant. Milking procedures will in general be much more consistent and efficient in a large rotary parlour (60 stalls) than in an equivalently sized herringbone or parallel parlour (double 30). Rotary parlours usually use a ‘face-in’ configuration and are subject to all of the same disadvantages of a parallel milking parlour. It is more difficult to provide any special cow care on a rotary platform than a static parlour. “

Cows should not be forced to stand for longer than is absolutely necessary, particularly in collecting yards, and where herds are separated into groups for milking, any opportunities to manage these groups in such a manner that standing times can be reduced should be investigated, so that cows do not have to stand too long with extra pressure on their hooves

When cows raise their heads up over the backs of other cows, it is an indication that there is not enough space available and additional pressure will be put on the feet through cows pushing and being less able to place their feet comfortably

Backing gates, while making a significant labour-saving contribution, need to be used carefully – particularly the heavy-framed type that work by pushing cows by force – as often the cows standing at the back of the yard are either already suffering from mobility problems that will be exacerbated by being forced to move, or are more nervous and at greater risk of injury from slipping.