There’s a lot of talk about dairy-farm efficiency, productivity and profitability — and that magical spot where they all meet. A good example of this in the milking parlor, said Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension ag production systems educator.
An efficiently operated parlor will have excellent throughput and will maximize labor. Efficient labor will lead to a calm environment for cows, which stimulates milk flow and production.
Add to that the milk-quality benefits of a well-run parlor, and profitability ties into the entire system, Wilmes said in a news release.
There are several ways to keep one’s parlor in tip-top shape. Think about the environment itself — cleanliness, noise level and light. A clean parlor will help manage environmental pathogens and keep cows and milkers healthy.
A quiet, calm parlor will help stimulate milk letdown and reduce potential teat damage of milking machines pumping when little milk is being produced. Loud music or milkers yelling may cause adrenaline release in the cows, which prohibits milk letdown.
A well-lit parlor benefits cows, helping them to clearly see where they’re going and what’s happening. Lighting also enables employees to see udders well and ensure cleanliness.
Good lighting aids in visual examination of milk when stripping udders during preparations.
The flow of a parlor matters — from the moment that pump starts to the moment it stops. Cows should be brought to the parlor efficiently, while still allowing them to move at a comfortable pace. Consider grouping cows by milking speed or, at the very least, keeping the slowest milkers at the end.
One can review milking-preparation times. The teat-skin surface requires 10 seconds to 20 seconds of stimulation for optimum milk letdown. The teat dip should be on the teats for 30 seconds to effectively kill surface bacteria.
Preparation-lag time, or the time it takes from initial stimulation to attachment of the milking machine, should be 60 seconds to 120 seconds.
Timely preparation of cows, which allows for proper stimulation and contact time, is crucial to a well-run parlor. It has a direct effect on parlor throughput, which is especially important in herds where the parlor operates 24 hours a day.
The environment and management of the parlor play critical roles in ensuring it is efficient, productive and profitable.