22 March 1996


Keep it simple is the philosophy behind a new parlour in Dorset. It puts a new angle on easy cow handling

THREE things constrained Pat Chick, his son David and herdsman Nigel Smith when it came to replacing an old 10/10 herringbone parlour at Manor Farm, Sixpenny Handley, Dorset. These were cost, existing farm buildings and slurry handling facilities, and a desire to keep things as simple as possible. But they were keen to improve parlour throughput while keeping the cows as quiet and contented as possible.

The result is a Fullwood 10/20 herringbone parlour with standings set at 50í.

The dairy, handling race, insemination/vet cubicles, herdsmans office and general store are all more or less kept within the same dimensions as the old building.

According to David Chick, dairy herd management has become more efficient and life more pleasant for cows and farm staff alike. "Cows can move in and out of the parlour more quickly and easily, there are better conditions for the operator, the vet and AI," he says.

Dairying is run alongside a sizeable arable enterprise on the 338ha (835 acre) chalk downland farm, relying on 61ha (150 acres) of grass and 24ha (60 acres) of maize for forage to feed the 155-cow commercial Holstein Friesian herd. Cow numbers have been increased from 130 to 150 head to help pay for the £130,000 investment in the new parlour and handling facilities.

The policy for home-bred replacements can now focus on raising the current 7170 litre yield to nearer 8500 litres over the next five years, as well as milk quality.

The Manor Farm parlour is the first 50í herringbone to be built by Fullwood. Mr Chick and herdsman Nigel Smith are pleased with the design which sets the cows at a 50í angle.

"You have easier access for through the legs milking for one thing," says Mr Smith. "With a conventional angle, you are constantly deciding whether or not to go in from the side because the cows leg is right in front of you. Also, you dont have to walk so far from one end to the other because the cows take up less room."

The main difference the design makes, though, is in terms of cow access and mobility. Because the walkways and entry and exit gates are wider than usual, there is enough room for cows to pass each other – so the whole rank need not be held up by an inquisitive heifer. At Manor Farm, this principle has been carried through with a wide end passage and doorway.

Key is throughput

"One of the key factors affecting the throughput of any parlour is how fast you can get the cows in and out," says Mr Smith. In the old 10/10 set-up, 45 cows an hour was considered a good rate; with the new parlour, 90 cows an hour is typical, with up to 120 an hour possible during summer when cows are yielding less. Feeders are located outside with simple ducts in the wall guiding feed into the mangers. "Having the feeders on the inside adds to noise and dust, and they tend to get splashed with water all the time," says Mr Chick. "Installing them on the outside gets round all those drawbacks for little extra cost." Cows are fed a flat rate 4kg of a 30% protein nut in the parlour and topped up to yield via out-of-parlour feeders.

Down in the pit there is overhead direct-to-line pipework and Fullflow II meters display flow rate, yield per cow and milk conductivity. They also operate the automatic cluster removal system and individual unit washing. Milk recording is manual at present but the meter system does have the facility to link up to computer-based records.

Each cluster is carried on a transverse overhead rail and slid from one side of the pit to the other.

"The pit would be a lot more cluttered if we had opted for 20 units and I dont think we would be milking any faster," says Mr Smith. "With this set-up, its simple enough to pull each unit across and you have a clear working area for washing udders."

Milk is pumped from a 160 litre (35 gal) storage vessel in the pit through two plate coolers before entering the 8000 litre (1760 gal) direct expansion bulk tank. The first cooler, using water from the farms own borehole, brings the milk temperature down from 36C to 18C (98.6F to 64F), while the second cooler drawing on water from an ice bank, gets it down to 3.3Cí (37.9F).

"The theory is that the bulk tank should rarely have to cut in to cool the milk, merely to keep it at the right temperature," explains Mr Chick. Borehole water then passes to a storage tank for parlour washing and drinking supplies – the cows particularly appreciate the slightly warmed water on a cold winters day, apparently.

Further economies are gained, adds Mr Chick, from installing a boiling water acid cleaning (BWAC) system. This reduces equipment washing to a single operation that takes just six minutes instead of 20, and contributing to low TBCs.n


&#8226 Faster cow movement.

&#8226 Milking time cut by 40%.

&#8226 Improved management.

&#8226 Better working conditions.

&#8226 Quieter, more contented cows.

&#8226 Lowered TBCs.

The 51í angle of the parlour standings is designed to give easier, uncluttered access through the cows legs.

Opting for 10 units leaves one side of the parlour completely clear for udder washing. Herdsman Nigel Smith shows how clusters slide across on overhead support rails.