Disadvantages of Rotary Milking Parlour

Rotary milking parlours have gained popularity in the dairy industry due to their efficiency and ability to handle large herds. However, it is crucial to understand the potential disadvantages associated with this milking system.

In this blog, we will explore the drawbacks of rotary milking parlours, ranging from initial investment costs to limitations in customisation. By shedding light on these disadvantages, dairy farmers can make informed decisions about their milking system choices.

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Showcasing a walkthrough of the EMA INDY360EX Rotary milking parlour including various stations such as the handling facilities and individual milking modules.

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Rotary milking parlours have revolutionised the way large-scale dairy farms operate. These systems consist of a circular platform on which cows stand while being milked, rotating slowly to allow access to multiple milking units. While they offer numerous advantages, it is important to recognise and evaluate the disadvantages associated with this technology. Let’s delve into the drawbacks to gain a comprehensive understanding of rotary milking parlours.

High Initial Investment Costs

One of the primary disadvantages of rotary milking parlours is the significant upfront investment required for installation. These systems involve complex infrastructure, including the rotary platform, milking units, and supporting machinery. The capital required can be substantially higher compared to traditional milking systems, making it a major barrier for smaller farms or those with limited financial resources.

Limited Adaptability to Small Farms

Rotary milking parlours are not well-suited for small-scale dairy farms due to their space requirements. These systems necessitate a substantial footprint, both for the circular platform and supporting infrastructure. Small farmers often struggle with limited land availability, making it impractical to accommodate the size and layout of a rotary parlour. As a result, smaller farms may find it more challenging to adopt this milking system.

Increased Labor and Management Demands

While rotary milking parlours offer efficient milking processes, they also impose increased labor and management demands. Operating and managing a rotary parlour requires skilled personnel who can effectively handle the technology and address potential issues.

Restricted Individual Cow Attention

In a rotary milking parlour, individual cow attention is limited compared to other milking systems. As cows continuously move along the rotary platform, it becomes challenging to monitor each cow’s behaviour, health, or milking performance closely. This lack of personalised care can negatively impact cow well-being, potentially leading to undetected health issues or compromised milk production.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability Concerns

Rotary milking parlours can have significant environmental impacts, primarily related to energy consumption and waste management. These systems require substantial electrical power to operate the platform, milking units, and other supporting machinery. Additionally, managing and disposing of the effluent generated during the milking process can pose challenges, potentially leading to pollution if not handled properly. In comparison, alternative milking systems may offer more sustainable options.

Maintenance and Repair Challenges

Maintaining and repairing rotary milking parlours can be complex and costly. The intricate machinery involved requires regular maintenance to ensure proper functionality. In the event of breakdowns or malfunctions, repairs may involve specialised technicians and downtime, affecting milk production and farm profitability. Being aware of the maintenance requirements and associated costs is crucial when considering a rotary milking parlour.

Lack of Flexibility During Milking

Rotary milking parlours provide limited flexibility during the milking process. The speed of rotation and milking parameters are generally fixed, lacking adaptability to individual cow behaviour or specific milking needs. For cows with unique characteristics or milking challenges, a rotary system may not provide the necessary flexibility to optimise milking efficiency or cow comfort.

Noise and Stress Factors

The operation of a rotary milking parlour can be noisy, potentially causing stress for both cows and operators. The constant rotation, machinery sounds, and human presence can disturb cows, affecting their milk let-down and overall well-being. Reducing noise levels and managing stress factors become essential to maintain cow comfort and maximise milk production.

Technological Dependency and Risk

Rotary milking parlours heavily rely on complex milking machinery and technology. This dependency introduces the risk of equipment failure or malfunctions, which can disrupt the milking process and impact farm operations. Having backup systems, regular equipment checks, and access to technical support are necessary to mitigate these technological risks.


While rotary milking parlours offer efficiency and automation advantages, they also come with several disadvantages that dairy farmers should consider. High initial investment costs, limited adaptability to small farms, increased labor and management demands, and technological dependency further contribute to the disadvantages of rotary milking parlours. Dairy farmers must carefully evaluate these factors and explore alternative milking systems that better align with their specific needs and circumstances.

While there are several disadvantages to consider, it is important to acknowledge the advantages that rotary milking parlours offer to dairy farmers. These benefits have contributed to the widespread adoption of this milking system in the industry. Learn more about the benefits of our Rotary Milking Parlour designs.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Are rotary milking parlours suitable for small-scale dairy farms? Rotary milking parlours are generally more suitable for large-scale dairy farms due to their space requirements and high initial investment costs. Small-scale farms may find it challenging to accommodate the infrastructure and justify the expenses associated with a rotary parlour.
  2. Can cows receive individualised care in a rotary milking parlour? Rotary milking parlours provide limited opportunities for individual cow attention and monitoring. Farmers may face challenges in detecting health issues or providing personalised care to each cow in such systems.
  3. Are rotary milking parlours environmentally friendly? Rotary milking parlours can have environmental impacts, primarily in terms of energy consumption and waste management. Dairy farmers interested in sustainability may explore alternative milking systems that offer more eco-friendly options.
  4. What are the maintenance requirements for a rotary milking parlour? Rotary milking parlours have specific maintenance requirements to ensure their smooth operation. Regular cleaning and sanitation, inspection of milking units, lubrication of moving parts, and monitoring of electrical systems are some common maintenance tasks. It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and consult with professionals for maintenance schedules and procedures
  5. What are the maintenance and repair considerations for rotary milking parlours? Rotary milking parlours require regular maintenance to ensure proper functionality. Repairs, if needed, may involve specialised technicians and result in downtime, affecting milk production. Being prepared for maintenance costs and having access to technical support are important aspects to consider.
  6. Can rotary milking parlours be retrofitted into existing milking facilities? Retrofitting a rotary milking parlour into an existing milking facility can be complex and may require significant modifications to the infrastructure. It is advisable to consult with milking system manufacturers or experts to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of retrofitting options.
  7. Can rotary milking parlours be integrated with automated cow monitoring systems? Yes, rotary milking parlours can be integrated with automated cow monitoring systems, such as activity monitors or rumination sensors. These systems provide valuable data on cow health, heat detection, and feeding behaviour, which can aid in efficient herd management and maximise milk production.

This post is part of our learning centre. Content designed for new farmers or those looking to learn more about milking parlours and the industry. If this something you’re interested, check our Learning Centre!