Milking speeds have a huge impact on milk production. The milking routines and automation will ultimately determine the time spent milking your dairy cow. You may have some information on some of the best milking parlor designs milking over 300 cows per hour but what goes into designing such parlors? This post is dedicated to shedding more light on milk parlor designs and the key features.
Key Features Of A Milking Parlor
The Milk Center
This is one of the most important sections of the milking parlor. The milking center should be designed around the size and type of milking parlor.
Planning The Milking Center
When planning the milking center, it is important that you have a good idea of the milking equipment. At some point, you may require to work closely with the equipment suppliers just to be sure that you are working with the right measurements. In addition to that, adhere to the regulations and guidelines on cleanliness and sanitation.
Components Of A Milking Center
Normally, the milking center will comprise of the milking parlor, holding area, mechanical room, milk tanks room, employee’s area, supply room and a storage room. Other components may be added depending on the specific farm needs.
The Holding Area
Milking is a process and needs to be well planned and coordinated. The holding area makes it possible to have an organized system. Here, the cows are held before entering the milking parlor allowing controlled movement into the milking center. A good holding area will keep the cows comfortable, ensure consistency, efficiency and orient the cows towards the parlor.
Features Of A Good Holding Area
The size of the holding area is determined by the milking parlor capacity. In most cases, the holding area will be designed to hold a single group of cows (cows that fit in the parlor). Holding the entire group in the holding area allows preparation of the next batch as the last cows are being milked. In cases where cows do not have to wait for the slow ones to be milked, the holding area might be smaller.
In a bid to control the cows’ movement, it is important to slope the holding area. This slope should be between 2% and 5%. Cows are known to walk comfortably uphill on slopes greater than 5% but slower downhill on slopes greater than 5 %.
Now that the holding area is sloped the floor has to be given keen consideration. For the floor to have good traction, most designers use textured surfaces. You may as well go for grooved floors.
These are also used as holding areas. Having the alleys eliminates the need of having a huge holding area. It however increases the chances of cows hiding in the stalls. This means that more cleaning will have to be done.
These are gates used to control cows inside the holding area. These gates come in different designs and rigid designs tend to be popular. With time, the cows get conditioned to move on hearing the sound of the gates. This eliminates the need to aggressively move the cattle.
Right from the holding area to the parlor and out, the cattle’s movement needs to be smooth and comfortable. The cows need to see where they are going. In most cases, the parlor will be separated from the holding area by doors or curtains. These doors and curtains need to be large enough when open to give the cow good vision.
The parlor should be designed with the movement in mind. The cows need not turn when entering the parlor from the holding area.
The parlor area is normally dictated by the heard size and the number of operators. The cows shouldn’t stay more than an hour in the milking process.
It’s thus necessary that one invests in a parlor that will make it possible to milk all the animals in the shortest time possible. Choose one of the designs mentioned earlier or refer to our post on milk parlor designs to get an idea of the best parlor for your farm.
This is the section where the cow stands while being milked. The platforms need to be designed to accord the cow maximum comfort. This being the case, rubber floor serves as the best option. This is because the cow needs to stand for long and make sharp turns when leaving the platform.
When designing the platform, let it slope towards the wall. This will not only aid in the cow’s exit but also in cleaning and drainage of the parlor.
Once the cows have been milked, they can either leave the parlor in a single return lane or double return lanes. The former is easier for sorting cows but limits walk-in parlor options. The latter on the other hand allows the operator to walk in the pit on the level but doesn’t give room for sorting.
Rapid Exit Options
A standard exit ought to be 32-36 inches (81-91cm) wide if it has no turns. If turns are included, a clear opening measuring 48-60 inches (122-152 cm) should be included.
Rapid exits are used to speed up cattle movement. It is best used in parallel and herringbone designs. Its dimensions should be 8-14 ft (2.5-4.5m) depending on the parlor size.
The Milking Pit
This is the section where the operator stays with his equipment when milking the cow. This section needs to be designed to offer easy access to cow udders and enable swift movement.
The pit depth is determined by the operators’ height as well as the parlor design. A good pit is one that allows the operator to work without stooping or bending. The working area should preferably lie between the shoulder and the elbow, an area of about 12 inches (30.5cm). This allows clear visibility of the udder. When the operator is standing, the elbows shouldn’t come into contact with the platform.
Parlor designs determine the pit depth. Herringbone designs have pit depths of 38 inches (97cm) while pits in parallel designs are 40 inches (102 cm) deep.
A pit that accommodates different operators should be encouraged. This can be a pit with an adjustable floor. Such floors go a long way in increasing efficiency and reducing fatigue.
The pit ought to be narrow enough to allow easy operation from one side to the other while still accommodating the milking equipment. In most cases, the width will be dictated by the parlor design. Double-sided parlors width should be 6-8 feet (2-2.5m).
The pit length has no specific dimensions. It can be as long as need provided that it doesn’t affect operations. In the design, the pit needs to be extended by 2 or 2.5 meters beyond the last milkman. This extension enables assistance in moving balky cows into the parlor.
Easy access to the parlor is essential not only to the cows but also to the milkier. Some farmers have mounted ramps to help them access the holding area. This is however discouraged as it tends to frighten the cows. They also tend to ‘train’ the milker on getting them instead of waiting for them in the parlor. Instead of the ramp, why not have some stairs, steps or ladder. This will discourage milkers from going to the holding area.
Milking equipment can be bulky and you need to know how best they can fit in the parlor. Basement parlors are known to be a brilliant idea of managing the milking equipment. Here, the receiving group can work comfortably in a quiet environment.
Milk parlors play a key role in boosting dairy comfort in dairy farming. This is the section where the farmer has the opportunity of reaping all the profits or letting the hard work go to the drain. It thus needs to be given all the attention it deserves. Design a good milking parlor and you will have no regrets.