The Different Types of Milking Parlours: Which One is Right for You?

Milking parlours play a crucial role in modern dairy farming, offering a more efficient and hygienic approach to milking cows compared to traditional manual methods.

Choosing the right milking parlour can significantly impact your farm’s productivity and profitability.

In this blog, we will explore the various types of milking parlours available, their pros and cons, and factors to consider when making a selection.

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Traditional Milking Parlour

The traditional milking parlour has been the cornerstone of dairy farms for generations. In this setup, cows are milked manually by hand or using simple milking machines. While traditional parlours are cost-effective and straightforward, they demand a considerable amount of labour and time.

The manual process may lead to inconsistent milk quality, and the lack of automation can limit overall farm productivity.

Rotary Milking Parlour

The rotary milking parlour is a popular choice among dairy farmers for its efficient and automated milking process. However, like any milking system, it comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Advantages:

  1. Ease on Milker: The rotary design of the parlour is beneficial for milkers as they don’t have to walk much to attach the milking equipment to the udders. The cows move around to the milker, reducing physical strain and fatigue during the milking process.
  2. Quick and Easy Animal Handling: The rotary design facilitates smooth and rapid movement of cows in and out of the milking parlour. This efficiency allows for a faster milking cycle, saving time and increasing overall throughput.
  3. Easy Automation: Implementing automation in a rotary milking parlour is relatively straightforward, especially when compared to herringbone parlours. Automation can further improve milking efficiency and reduce the need for manual labour.
  4. Adjustable Speed: The speed of rotation can be easily controlled, making it possible to lower the speed if cows appear nervous or stressed. This feature enables operators to match the milking pace to the stage of lactation or the temperament of the cows.
  5. High Throughput: A well-designed rotary parlour can handle up to 10 cows per minute, making it an ideal choice for larger dairy farms with significant herd sizes.

Disadvantages:

  1. High Initial Cost: One of the major drawbacks of a rotary milking parlour is its relatively high initial investment. The cost can be a significant consideration for smaller farms or those with budget constraints.
  2. Limited Expansion Potential: As the dairy farm grows and the herd size increases, expanding a rotary parlour can be challenging and expensive. This limitation can be a concern for farmers with plans for future expansion.
  3. Increased Maintenance Costs: The rotary parlour’s design involves numerous moving parts, which can lead to higher maintenance costs compared to simpler milking parlour systems.
  4. Waiting Time for Cows: After milking, cows often wait on the platform for a few minutes before reaching the exit spot. This idle time is not the most effective use of the cows and may lead to longer milking sessions.
  5. Limited View of Udders: The movement and side-by-side arrangement of the cows on the rotary platform can hinder clear viewing of the udders during milking. This may make it more challenging to detect potential issues or monitor udder health.

EMA Indy 360EX Rotary milking parlour side shot

Herringbone Milking Parlour

The herringbone milking parlour features an angled setup, where cows stand at an angle and are milked from the side. This arrangement provides easier access to udders, streamlining the milking process. Herringbone parlours strike a balance between efficiency and cost, but in terms of pros and cons farmers should consider these:

Advantages

  1. Cost-Effective Construction and Maintenance: Herringbone milking parlours are relatively inexpensive to build and maintain compared to some other milking systems. This makes them a more accessible option for smaller and medium-sized dairy farms.
  2. High Milking Efficiency: The herringbone design allows for a high rate of cows per cluster, as cattle can exit and enter on one side while the opposite row continues to be milked. This efficient milking process can save time and increase overall milk production.
  3. Clear View of Livestock: Dairy operators have a clear view of the cows during milking in a herringbone parlour. This visibility enables operators to monitor cow behavior and udder health closely.
  4. Ease of Expansion: Herringbone milking parlours are relatively easy to expand, making them suitable for dairy farms with plans for future growth. Lengthening the parlour is a straightforward process to accommodate a larger herd.
  5. Calm Environment for Cows: As cows can see other cows getting milked right beside them, they tend to remain calm during the milking process. This can contribute to a more relaxed and stress-free milking environment.

Disadvantages

  1. Physical Demands on Milkers: One of the main drawbacks of herringbone milking parlours is the considerable amount of walking and moving required by milkers. This can be physically taxing, especially during long milking sessions.
  2. Challenges with Automatic Cup Removers: Some herringbone parlours may face difficulties in installing and maintaining automatic cup removers. This can complicate the milking routine and decrease milking efficiency.
  3. Loading and Unloading Speed: In larger herringbone parlours, the loading and unloading of cows may not happen as fast as desired, leading to potential bottlenecks in the milking process.
  4. Potential Slowdown Due to Slow Milkers: If one cow in the row is a slow milker, it can slow down the entire milking row, affecting the overall milking pace and efficiency.

GT2 Herringbone milking parlour interior

Parallel Milking Parlour

In parallel milking parlours, cows stand parallel to each other during milking. This type of parlour is common in both small and medium-sized dairy farms. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of using a parallel milking parlour.

Advantages

  1. Short Distance for Milkers: In a parallel milking parlour, the distance between cows and the operating machine is relatively short. This reduces the amount of walking required by milkers during the milking process, making it less physically demanding.
  2. Efficient Stall Utilisation: The line-up of interlocking fronts ensures that no stall is used until the one beside it is occupied. This maximises the efficiency of stall utilisation for every round of milking.
  3. Milker Safety: Parallel milking parlours are designed with high safety structures to protect milkers during the milking process. The layout and construction prioritise milker safety, reducing the risk of accidents or injuries.
  4. Adjustable Milker Pit Floors: The milker pits in a parallel milking parlour often have adjustable floors, allowing milkers to adjust their position relative to the cows. This feature improves milker comfort and ergonomics during milking.
  5. Quick and Easy Animal Positioning: Parallel milking parlours allow for quick and easy positioning of animals. The design ensures that cows can be smoothly guided into their respective stalls for milking.

Disadvantages

  1. Limited View of Front Part of Animal: Access to the udder in a parallel milking parlour is at the back of the stall, between the cow’s rear legs. This setup can result in a lack of a clear view of the front part of the animal during milking.
  2. Challenges in Unit Attachment: The between-the-legs access point to the udder can make unit attachment somewhat tricky for milkers. Proper attachment of milking units may require additional effort and precision.
  3. Inability to Use Support Arms: Due to the stall spacing, it may be impossible to use support arms in a parallel milking parlour. Support arms are commonly used in other milking systems to assist with milking unit attachment.
  4. Balancing Milking Units: Balancing milking units on the udder may present a challenge in a parallel milking parlour, particularly due to the rear access point. Proper balancing is essential to ensure effective and comfortable milking for the cows.

Streamway 90 milking parlour

Robotic Milking Parlour

Robotic milking parlours represent the pinnacle of modern milking technology. Automated robotic arms handle the milking process, allowing cows to be milked at their convenience. However, farmers should heavily consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  1. Highly Efficient Milking: Robotic milking systems are designed to be highly efficient. The robots can determine when to take breaks and when milking is complete, disconnecting on their own. This ensures optimal milking without overmilking or undermilking the cows.
  2. Reduced Labor Costs: With robotic milking parlours, dairy farmers don’t need to hire, train, and pay expenses for dedicated dairy workers. The robots handle the milking process, leading to significant labor cost savings.
  3. Fast Milk Production: Robotic milking parlours are among the fastest milking systems available. They can efficiently milk large herds, increasing overall milk production.
  4. Simplified Milking for Larger Herds: Robotic milking systems make milking larger herds much easier and faster. The robots can handle multiple cows simultaneously, reducing milking time and improving farm productivity.
  5. Automated Feeding Management: Some robotic milking systems are equipped to register when more food is needed and automatically move the feed up to the cows’ feeder. This feature contributes to efficient feeding management for the herd.

Disadvantages

  1. High Initial Capital Investment: The initial capital required to install and set up a robotic milking system is substantial. Each robot can cost up to the hundreds of thousands, and considering that each robot can milk 50 to 70 cows, the overall cost can be significant.
  2. Occasional Need for Manual Assistance: While the robots handle most of the milking process, there may be instances when the robot’s mechanism for teat attachment doesn’t work correctly. In such cases, a dairy worker might need to step in and secure the attachment, partially negating the labor cost savings.
  3. Transition Period for Cows: It may take several rounds of milking for all cows to become fully familiarised with the robotic milking system. This transition period requires patience and management to ensure a smooth adaptation for the herd.
  4. Expensive Spare Parts: If the robots break down, obtaining the necessary spare parts can be expensive, especially when they need to be imported from other countries. The combination of premium costs and shipping expenses can be a significant financial burden for some farms.

Choosing the Right Milking Parlour

Selecting the right milking parlour depends on various factors, including the size of your farm, the number of cows in your herd, and your budget. Larger farms with a substantial number of cows might benefit from rotary parlours, while smaller farms could find parallel or herringbone parlours more suitable. Assessing the level of automation and labour efficiency required is also crucial in making the right decision.

Maintenance and Upkeep of Milking Parlours

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure milking parlours operate smoothly and efficiently. Regular cleaning and inspection of equipment, as well as timely repairs, are critical to prevent disruptions in milking routines. Farmers should establish a maintenance schedule and follow best practices to ensure the longevity of their milking parlour investment.

Innovations in Milking Parlour Technology

Milking parlour technology is continuously evolving, with ongoing research and development efforts to enhance efficiency and cow comfort. Innovations such as advanced teat scanning, automated health monitoring, and AI-powered milking routines are transforming the industry. Staying updated with the latest advancements can give farmers a competitive edge.

Ensuring Cow Comfort and Milk Quality

Cows’ comfort directly impacts their milk production and overall health. Proper milking parlour design, adequate ventilation, and clean, spacious milking areas contribute to cow well-being. Ensuring milk quality involves maintaining high hygiene standards throughout the milking process, from udder preparation to milk storage.

Environmental Considerations

Sustainability is gaining importance in dairy farming, and milking parlours are no exception. Farmers are increasingly looking for eco-friendly solutions to reduce their environmental footprint. Innovative technologies, waste management practices, and energy-efficient milking parlours contribute to a more sustainable dairy industry.

You can learn more about how you can make your Milking Parlour More Energy Efficient

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right milking parlour is a significant decision for dairy farmers. Each type of milking parlour has its unique advantages and drawbacks, making it crucial to assess farm needs and resources. Whether it’s a traditional, rotary, herringbone, parallel, or robotic milking parlour, investing in the right technology can transform dairy farming operations and lead to greater success.

At Electromech Agri, we are leading experts in everything dairy farm equipment and supplies. Learn our complete range of milking parlours or if you have a question feel free to contact us!

FAQs

  1. Is a rotary milking parlour suitable for a small dairy farm? While rotary milking parlours are more common in large-scale operations, they can be adapted for smaller farms. However, the initial investment and maintenance costs might be higher for smaller setups.
  2. Can robotic milking parlours detect health issues in cows? Yes, many robotic milking parlours come equipped with health monitoring systems that can detect early signs of health issues in cows, such as mastitis.
  3. Are herringbone parlours more labour-efficient than parallel parlours? Herringbone parlours generally require less labour per cow compared to parallel parlours, as they offer better cow positioning and access.
  4. What are the key factors to consider when choosing a milking parlour? Farm size, cow herd, automation level, budget, and long-term goals are essential factors to consider when selecting a milking parlour.

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