20 March 1998

PARLOUR POINTERS

Struggling to cope with the new requirements of quality assurance and welfare

schemes? Jessica Buss reports on some of the key messages from a recent DRC

practical subject day which may provide some pointers on how to comply

DECIDING whether to replace or update your milking parlour will depend on the condition of the existing plant and its size relative to the number of cows planned.

According to Fullwood product manager John Baines, when herd size is unlikely to increase, consider updating the existing equipment.

But when a bigger parlour is needed a new site may be the best option. "One of the biggest faults is to put a bigger parlour in the same place as a previous smaller one. The new parlour ends up with a small exit passageway, and slow milking times. Getting cows out is one of the biggest factors affecting cow throughput," he explains.

"How much to invest in a new parlour must be determined by the aims of the business for the next five or 10 years." Swing over parlours offer better value for money with an 11:22 having an equivalent throughput to an 18:18, he added. But they may have higher maintenance costs.

There is a variety of parlour types and choice will depend on the individual farm situation. But it should provide the required level of throughput an hour, which may depend on the yield level of cows.

The number of units that can be managed by a milker will also depend on the teat preparation time needed, he adds. Design of the building is vital for cow flow into and out of the parlour.

Good cow flow reduces stress on cows and milkers, making a pleasant working environment.

Feeders not advised

However, he advises against feeding cows in the parlour. Parlour feeding creates dust, attracts vermin and cannot be justified in terms of cow flow.

"There is no physiological justification to feed cows in the parlour, it is not part of the milk letdown response but a learnt association," he says. It creates unnecessary dust and attracts vermin in an area where these are undesirable.

Deciding against feeding in the parlour can impair cow movement into the parlour, but many producers feeding mixed diet rations, who are feeding cows well outside, find cows are not attracted by parlour feed.

Parlour feeding can also have a negative effect on cow flow. "When cows are moving out of the parlour they will stop even for an odd nut on the floor."

Mr Baines advised use of a lightweight crowding gate with a bell or buzzer that cows would associate with movement – an electric current may be needed on it for initial training.

John Baines… one of the biggest faults is to install new, larger parlours on the same site and end up with a small exit that reduces cow throughput.