Elevated Parlor Guidelines

Published on Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:25am

An elevated milking parlor is a special area where cows are brought to be milked and then returned to their housing facility. An elevated milking parlor is perhaps the most costly and critical component on a modern dairy operation. It usually forms the nucleus of a larger specialized segment of the dairy operation referred to as the milking center. Milking parlors are classified by the position the cows stand in relation to each other and in relation to the milker. The most basic distinction is whether the cows are elevated above the person doing the milking (flat parlor versus elevated parlor). This guideline will cover elevated parlors.

In elevated parlors, cows may stand in line parallel to the operator’s area (walk through, side opening, tandem), at an angle to the operator (herringbone), or side by side facing away from the operator (parallel). The cow’s position affects the amount of the cow visible to the operator and whether the milker unit is attached from the side or between the rear legs. Orientation of the cows will also affect parlor length and width, operator walking distance and cow entrance and exit times.

In an effort to minimize time lost due to cow entry and exit and or operator movement from cow to cow there have been various efforts at moving the cow to and from the operator and milking machine. Early attempts involved having cows step onto a moving conveyor belt or rotating platform that moved her past an operator who attached a unit that was later removed automatically or by a second operator. Difficulties with these units included complexity and breakdowns of machinery required to move 1400-pound cows and fixed time milking. These units work best when udder prep and machine attach routines are minimal.

Parlors are further classified based on how the cows enter and leave the area where they will actually be milked. Cows enter and leave side opening stalls one at a time. In a herringbone or parallel parlor, groups of cows enter the parlor in single file. In smaller herringbone or parallel parlors cows usually exit single file through the end of the parlor. In parallel parlors, cows may also reverse direction and exit single file through the same end of the parlor they entered from.

To reduce the amount of time it takes cows to exit a large herringbone or parallel parlors, methods to allow all cows to exit as a group have been developed. In so called rapid exit parlors all cows are able to walk simultaneously directly away from the operator area as a group rather than single file along the operator area. Rapid exit stalls require a widened exit area next to the milking platform and a return lane on each side of the parlor. As parlor length exceeds 8-10 stalls per side, considerable time can be saved by allowing all cows to exit as a group.

This is an excerpt from the Dairy Practices Council’s Guideline #54, Elevated Milking Parlors. More information can be found at the Dairy Practices Council’s website: www.dairypc.org.

John Tyson is a Regional Extension Agricultural Engineer with Penn State Extension, where he conducts educational programming in dairy housing, cow comfort, farmstead layout, feed storage design, manure handling, and agricultural ventilation. John is also involved in the production of various extension publications involving dairy housing facilities. John has been a Licensed Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania since January of 2003. He can be reached at jtyson@psu.edu.