Understanding the Limitations of Herringbone Milking Systems

Herringbone milking systems have been widely used in the dairy industry for many years. They offer several advantages, including efficient milking processes, enhanced cow comfort, and improved milker safety. However, it’s important to recognise that these systems also have their limitations. Understanding these limitations is crucial for dairy farmers and industry professionals to make informed decisions about their milking system choices.

In this blog, we will explore the various limitations of herringbone milking systems and discuss potential solutions to overcome them.

Benefits of Herringbone Milking Systems

Before delving into the limitations, let’s first understand why herringbone milking systems are popular. These systems feature an angled arrangement of milking stalls, allowing multiple cows to be milked simultaneously. Some of the benefits associated with herringbone milking systems include:

Efficient milking process

Herringbone systems enable efficient milking sessions by accommodating multiple cows at once. This reduces the overall milking time, maximising productivity and throughput.

Enhanced cow comfort

The angled positioning of cows in herringbone systems allows for improved cow comfort. Cows have ample space to stand and move comfortably during the milking process, which contributes to their well-being and overall milk production.

Improved milker safety

Herringbone systems prioritise milker safety by providing better access to the udder and minimising the risk of physical strain. Milkers can comfortably position themselves during milking, reducing the likelihood of injuries.

Limitation 1: Space Requirements

One of the primary limitations of herringbone milking systems is the space they require. The angled stall arrangement necessitates a larger area compared to other milking systems. Retrofitting existing farms to accommodate herringbone setups can be challenging and may require significant modifications. This limitation can pose difficulties for farms with limited space or those looking to expand their operations.

Limitation 2: Labour Intensiveness

Herringbone milking systems can be labour-intensive, especially during milking sessions. The angled layout and simultaneous milking of multiple cows require skilled and efficient labour to manage the process effectively. The increased workload can be demanding for farmers and their staff, especially during peak milking times.

Limitation 3: Cow Flow and Turnaround Time

Managing cow flow and optimising turnaround time are crucial aspects of any milking system. In herringbone setups, the movement of cows to and from the milking stalls can affect milking efficiency. Proper cow flow management becomes essential to ensure a smooth and timely process. Challenges may arise when dealing with cows that are hesitant to enter or exit the stalls, potentially impacting overall milking performance.

Limitation 4: Cow Health and Udder Health

While herringbone milking systems promote cow comfort, there are certain limitations concerning cow health and udder health. Regular maintenance and hygiene practices are crucial to prevent issues udder-related infections. Proper cleaning and sanitisation of milking equipment, as well as regular cow health monitoring, are essential to mitigate these limitations.

Limitation 5: Flexibility and Expansion

Farmers aiming to expand their dairy operations or accommodate a growing herd size may face challenges with herringbone milking systems. These systems have limitations in terms of flexibility and scalability. Expanding the capacity of a herringbone setup can be complex and may require significant modifications or even the construction of a new milking parlour. The inflexibility of herringbone systems can be a hindrance to farm growth.

Limitation 6: Milker Comfort and Ergonomics

Milker comfort and ergonomic considerations are vital for maintaining a motivated and efficient workforce. Herringbone milking systems may present challenges in this aspect. Milkers need to bend and stretch to reach udders, potentially causing discomfort or strain over time. Ergonomic solutions such as adjustable platforms or automated positioning systems can alleviate these issues.

Overcoming Limitations

While herringbone milking systems have their limitations, innovative solutions can help overcome them. Advancements in milking technology, such as automated cow positioning systems and robotic milking, can address some of the challenges associated with cow flow, labour requirements, and milker comfort.

Proper training and education for farmers and milking staff are essential to maximise the potential of these systems and mitigate their limitations effectively.


Understanding the limitations of herringbone milking systems is crucial for dairy farmers and industry professionals. By recognising the challenges related to space requirements, labour intensiveness, cow flow, cow and udder health, flexibility, and milker comfort, informed decisions can be made when choosing the appropriate milking system for a farm. Embracing technological advancements and innovative designs can help overcome these limitations and optimise the efficiency and productivity of herringbone milking systems.


  1. Are herringbone milking systems suitable for small-scale dairy farms? Herringbone systems can be adapted to small-scale operations, but space requirements should be carefully considered.
  2. What are some alternative milking systems to herringbone setups? Parallel and rotary milking systems are popular alternatives to herringbone setups, offering their own unique advantages.
  3. How often should milking equipment in herringbone systems be cleaned? Milking equipment should be cleaned and sanitised after each milking session to maintain udder health and prevent contamination.
  4. Can herringbone milking systems be retrofitted into existing farms? Retrofitting herringbone systems into existing farms can be challenging and may require significant modifications to accommodate the space requirements.
  5. Are herringbone milking systems cost-effective in the long run? The cost-effectiveness of herringbone systems depends on various factors, including herd size, labour availability, and milk production volume.

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