Rotary brings a revolution
AFTER its first year of operation, one of the biggest rotary parlours in Europe – with stalls for 40 cows – has "revolutionised" dairy herd management at John Bartons Sand Villa Farm, Cockerham, near Lancaster.
"When you consider how much money dairy farmers invest in stock and the effort that goes into getting the best performance from the herd, it seems only right that you should try and provide the best facilities you can to milk those cows," says Mr Barton, who farms with sons Robert and William.
The giant 40-point Alfa Laval milking parlour was manufactured in New Zealand and is the focal point of a new dairy complex built last year.
The farms 400 dairy cows are now milked in under two hours – a sharp contrast to the twice daily stint of four-and-a-half hours spent milking in the previous herringbone.
The parlour is driven by two 0.75hp electric motors rotating on steel rollers, which are automatically lubricated as the parlour rotates. Lasers were used during the installation to achieve the accurate balance needed for the platform.
"One of the attractions of this set-up when we first saw it operating in east Germany was the accessibility of the workings. All the drive mechanisms and bearings are on show and easy to get at," says Mr Barton.
Although an electric gate is used to move milkers towards the parlour from the collecting yard, cows are keen to step on to the moving platform. Each is identified by a transponder which transmits the animals data on to the digital display unit of the milking stall.
Milk is transferred by two large-capacity pumps and passes through the "gland" which is situated in the centre of the circular parlour. The rotating gland is an intricate part of the operation and is the link carrying milk, vacuum and electronic data lines during milking.
The main operator remains stationary during the entire milking time. His position for attaching each cluster is alongside a manually operated control panel, which includes stop-start buttons for the platform and speed changes; it is situated by the ramp which leads each new cow into a vacant stall.
After backing out and turning, each cow walks over an electronically triggered automatic teat spray unit situated on the floor.
Above left: It takes under two hours to milk 400 cows through the 40-cow rotary parlour. Above right: This centrally mounted "gland" is the link for carrying milk, vacuum and electronic data during milking.