Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

Confused at the variety of milking parlours out there? Here's what to look out for

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Although the herringbone is the most popular milking parlour type used in Ireland, there is a range of other designs. These include the double-up unit, rotary parlour and the robotic milking machine. Here we have a look at the various options on the market.


In this situation there is a cluster for each cow space. There will be a milk line on each side of the parlour. This type of parlour is rare in Ireland but may have a role where existing facilities have restricted space for expansion. Generally in Ireland, it is put in as a midi line rather than a low line. Cluster removers are a requirement with this type of machine.


These systems should be considered where herd size exceeds 250 cows. Size can vary from 40 to 100 units. One operator can manage a very large number of units so capacity is high.

Cows enter and exit one at a time rather than in groups as with other systems.

It is impossible to expand once the system is in place. However, rotaries have the potential to milk several hundred cows by extending the milking time.

Main points to consider:

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nSix revolutions per hour, ie, 360 cows per hour for a 60-point.

nPlan on the basis that each revolution takes approximately 10 minutes.

n300-400 cows need a 50-60 point rotary.

nShed size would need to be 24m by 24m (80'x80') for a 60-point with extra space for the dairy, washroom, plant room and office at the end or the side.

A big handling area is needed for the big numbers because more cows may have to be drafted and the farmer/vet can also deal with cows as they come off the table in single file or in groups after milking.

The collecting yard can be a rectangular yard moving cows towards a race, which funnels them into single file.

The most popular rotary is probably a side-by-side type, with the cows' heads facing towards the centre.

The platform is either a floating concrete type or it is mounted on tapered (cambered) rollers.

The floating type may be unstable, easy to drive but difficult to stop, making it dangerous and awkward.

The roller type is sturdy with a concrete standing for the cows. It is easy to stop and the tapered rollers are not affected by friction wear due to the inner and outer circumference. For safety no animal handling tasks should be performed on cows on the platform, whether moving or stationary -- it's too dangerous. Access to the centre of rotary is via a tunnel under the turntable. This is a requirement for safety and fire regulations.

Allowance must be made for the different levels, the collecting yard and platform, the tunnel and the level at which the milker works at, to facilitate cluster attachment and minimise repetitive strain injury. Use soft mats or an adjustable standing for the milker.

In terms of cow flow rate, each cow passes the milker every 10 seconds. Therefore, it will take 4,000 seconds to milk 400 cows. It will take one hour and seven minutes to milk them in a 60-point and 80 minutes to milk them in a 50-point.

Robotic Milking Systems

One cow is milked at a time in a single stall AMS and milking is conducted over 22 hours each day. One robot can cater for approximately 70 cows.

Cows volunteer for milking by walking from the cow accommodation or paddock to the AMS unit. The majority of the work for the operator becomes cow and data management rather than physical work.

Indo Farming