Dairy tips: Benefits of benchmarking your parlour

A new parlour may not be the only way to improve milking efficiency, reduce time in the parlour or get cows in more quickly.

Benchmarking your parlour and milking routine with other farmers can raise discussion points and identify weak spots – and possibly come up with some cost-effective solutions.

Milking machine specialist Ian Ohnstad, of The Dairy Group, says using AHDB’s Parlour Wizard calculator in a group of like-minded businesses allows producers to compare their performance objectively with each other.

See also: Video – how a new parlour improved herd efficiency and health

Instead of anecdotal chat, milking information such as cow flow, cups-on time, and loading and unloading time can be fed into the calculator, providing consistent data for analysis, he says.

“You can then discuss why your neighbour’s figures are different. For instance, is it to do with feeding in-parlour, their collecting yard shape, or use of a backing gate?”

Time each milking process

Another option, Ian suggests, is for everyone to pick the same milking, then ask someone with a stopwatch to observe the whole process, logging how long it takes to do each part, from prepping teats and attaching clusters, to disinfecting.

“Identify weaknesses such as cow loading or exiting time and ask why: is the entry dark or slippery, are there grates, or steps?

“Poor facilities and cow handling can result in poor milk letdown. All of this impacts milking time and efficiency.”

Having benchmarked and highlighted problem areas, Ian says the parlour calculator can also compare options for technical or milking routine improvement – such as cluster removers – on a cost basis.

This helps work out the value of labour saved and the payback on investment, before discussing potential options with a milking machine engineer.