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Thread: Micro-Dairy parlor considerations

  1. #1
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    Default Micro-Dairy parlor considerations

    Hello all, I've been on the forums in the past reading posts, but finally joined today to hopefully get some thoughts and advice

    We're trying to set up a small-scale/micro dairy and creamery here on our farm. Probably around 6 Jersey cows to start, perhaps up to 10 or 12 in the long term. Pasture based, grass-fed, and mostly seasonal. I'm trying to figure out how to design our milking area. (Having grown up and worked on a 90 cow dairy - tie-stall barn with double 5 parlor - I am quite familiar with mid-size dairy farming as well.)

    While we have a post-and-beam bank barn (built into hillside, with drive-in hay loft above and cow area below), which back in the day had some tie-stalls and a small can-cooling milkhouse, by and large whatever retrofitting or new construction will happen will be from scratch. What I'm leaning towards is either a 3 or 4 back-out stall flat-barn parlor (cows step into milking stall, get headlocked, milked, then released and back out), or a 3 stall tandem/side-entry (here's an example). A 3 stall walk-through could be a possibility too, though as I see it the latter would require a high-line milking system (to go over the cows' walking through) while the former two could use a low-line (or rather mid-line) system, which should be gentler on the milk and the cows, no? Milk moves assisted with gravity to a receiving tank, where it is then pumped (not sucked) to a small bulk tank.

    So that's probably my big question, whether it's worth designing a parlor/milkhouse layout around a low-line type system rather than high-line. After that would probably come costs, e.g. getting the most out of the smallest space which, in drafting things out, seems to be back-out stalls by about 2/3 the floor space required.

    Any thoughts?

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    Hi

    i sure am glad you're here. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help make you feel at home. Just dive on into the conversations. It sounds like you have a lot to offer.

    John Osthus

  3. #3
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    I am completely guessing here but....it may be possible to combine a step-up/walk-thru parlor with a low-line. If the line ran in a PVC tube cemented under the cow platform and came out in the two "cut outs" where the person milking stands. The milk line would need to loop, but the loop could go overhead without effecting the necessary vacuum required to milk the cows. If it is possible let me know...I would like to build a parlor similar to it for myself (but for a few more cows

    With only a few cows the back-up parlor shouldn't be too big of a hassle, but if you get above 20ish cows you will most likely spend more time opening and closing gates to separate milked and non-milked cows than you spend actually milking those cows.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the reply . I have wondered myself if that kind of thing, putting the milk line through conduits in the fore of the platform, would work. My suspicion is that the milk inspectors wouldn't go for it, as being low it's a place for stuff to splash or fall into and dirt, bacteria build up, etc. That gap would have to be sealed really really well I guess.

    And you're right, with so few cows the ideal, most efficient situation is probably really not that much time savings over the much simpler, back-up option.

    I wonder, how much space should I have behind the stall for cows to back up into? Certainly a full cow's length would be enough, but would less, say 6ft, be sufficient?

  5. #5
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    I would think that if the cows have to back up you would want a minimum of 7-8 feet, so they don't back you into a wall by accident as everything is going to be fairly tight quarters.


    Just as a note I milked in a D6 step-up parlor part time for ~10 years. I like them, and they are cheap to build, but you need to be on "friendly" terms with the cows because everything is so close. The cow platform should be ~3' wide with 2' of "worker" space between (4' per stall total). The alley between the stalls was 8' wide and that seemed to be about the right width...far enough to avoid getting squished narrow enough to move quickly between cows.

  6. #6
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    Not trying to hijack your thread but how many cows per hour did you milk in a double six step up? was that 12 stalls with 6 milking units and moved them to the other cow while prepping the other one? Also did you run a D6 step up with 1 person or 2? I would think with walking across it would be hard to keep up?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by JS_Farms View Post
    Not trying to hijack your thread but how many cows per hour did you milk in a double six step up? was that 12 stalls with 6 milking units and moved them to the other cow while prepping the other one? Also did you run a D6 step up with 1 person or 2? I would think with walking across it would be hard to keep up?
    No problem. Double 5 herringbone, actually, with a milker unit for each cow (so 10 total). On a good day I'd get around 40 cows per hour I'd say, though my father was quite a bit slower. And we tended to have at least a couple units where the auto take-off wouldn't work, so milked manually, plus a lot of uneven and slow milkers that we milked manually as well. I'd always try to get the slow milkers started first, as they set the time for the whole 5 cow batch. It wasn't uncommon for us to be waiting on just one or two cows. That's why I like the idea of single-stall milkers! Plus, if you go down the line dipping/prepping all the cows, then start putting the milkers on, really the last couple have been stimulated for too long and already well into milk let-down.

  8. #8
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    I could do ~72 cows per hour in the D6 step-up including group changes. Clean-up took longer than other parlor types, however. Anyway, in 5 hours I could start, milk, and clean-up after 250 cows. Eight turns per hour is about the theoretical max for any system, a rotary can average 7 turns an hour and I was doing 6 turns an hour. A normal parlor (parallel/herringbone) will be 4-4.5 turns per hour.

    Normally I worked in "circles" starting next to the holding area, working down the line, cross the alley, then back down the line to the holding area entrance again. Once I got to the middle of a group I would be "working" about 4 cows per "circle".

    The biggest problem with this set-up is that prep time is too short. I should have really prepped 4 cows in a set, but that would be a lot more walking. I was also waiting for cows to finish in a high production group, so a D8 may be a better fit for a fast person.

  9. #9
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    Wow 72 per hour is humming right along! Where I work now we milk in a double 9 parlor no crowd gate and horrible holding area so basically push every cow from holding area/alley through parlor and back out.... terrible cow flow... it takes me 5 hours from getting dip and towels ready to washing down to milk 200-210 cows..... so my turns per hour are horrible! and I dont even go get the next group of cows myself the pusher/feeder keeps the "holding area" full of cows for me!

  10. #10
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    I would stay away from having them back out.
    Walk throughs will be faster and easier on the cows.
    Have seen them set up low line and it may have been CIP as well, but it was a while back and I can't remember all the details.
    They did run the pipes through large PVC pipe set in the concrete.

    I believe the Universal dealer in Pulaski WI did the install don't even know if they are still around.....

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by cows250 View Post
    Eight turns per hour is about the theoretical max for any system, a rotary can average 7 turns an hour and I was doing 6 turns an hour. A normal parlor (parallel/herringbone) will be 4-4.5 turns per hour.
    8 turns is not the theoretical max... it is completely dependent on milk production, as well as achievable flow rates. A low producing herd could turn that same rotary much faster due to less milk output from the teat sphincter while a higher producing herd would get less turns due to the higher volume of milk needing to exit teat sphincters. Your theoretical turns yields a 7.5 minute average. If you had a whole herd of fast milking cows you could get the same herd done on an average of 5 minutes. I have plenty of cows who milk >100 lbs in under 5 min in a robot. Generally a human can work faster than a robot so you should be able to do it even faster. If I had a whole herd of these cows I could get >12 turns/hr and still have a 100 lb herd average.
    DiederichFarm
    "You are only as good as your next success, not your last" Sir Jock Stirrup

  12. #12
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    Dr. D: Plenty of cows milk out in less than 5 minutes, it's the prep time that adds up on you. Also the time required to get one cow out and another in and a person there to work with that cow. I figure 4-4.5 minutes unit attachment for the "average" cow, but the 1.5-2 minutes of (recommended) prep (lag) and 1-1.5 minutes to get the cows changed and a person started working on them adds up too.

    And really, total milk production vs. time is completely cow dependent. Some cows can pour out 40 pounds a milking in 2 minutes. Some cows will take 6 minutes to squeeze out 15 pounds. In the past I have seen cows milk for 12+ minutes, but that never happens on our rotary.

    I could simply throw a unit on reducing prep time to zero and attachment time to ~7 seconds, but then unit on time is going to probably increase for most cows. Not to mention the SCC, bacteria, and mastitis problems (for freestall housed/high producing cows).

    So, unless I have a unit, cow, and person always waiting by every stall I am going to stick with 8 turns an hour as a theoretical max for a parlor. Sure you may be able to also aggressively select solely by milking time, but I have never seen a farm cull cows that took longer than 4 minutes to milk. Longer than 6-9+....sure they get culled or taken off early every time, but 5 minutes is a "normal" cow; making 12 turns an hour on average impossible.


    Sammyd: Thanks for the info that you have at least seen one. I am thinking that I could fit up to 10 units milking on a 3" lowline with a loop going over head. I will google the dealership.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by cows250 View Post
    I could do ~72 cows per hour in the D6 step-up including group changes. Clean-up took longer than other parlor types, however. Anyway, in 5 hours I could start, milk, and clean-up after 250 cows.
    Sorry, but this does not make much sense. Even if it took you an hour for cleanup, that would only be 62 cows an hour. Unless by cleanup you mean other chores entirely?
    Anyways 72 cows an hour is ridiculous, and seems highly improbable unless they were giving about 30 lbs a day and you weren't doing any prep.

  14. #14
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    From the time I punched in to the time I punched out was 5 hours, working alone on the night shift. Milking itself was ~3.5 hours, but I needed to set-up the milk house, get the cows, milk, clean-up the parlor, and switch the milk house back to wash mode. Washing down the parlor took ~45 min. to an hour, it was the least efficient part of the whole thing.

    So for turns per hour and milking speed it was 6 turns and 72 cows an hour with a strip, dip, wipe, attach prep taking 30-45 seconds per cow. I would do two side-by-side cows together as a group if I could, but even then the prep lag was too short. I knew the cows that needed a longer lag time and would leave them alone for a minute to let down before attaching them, maybe 3-5 cows a milking. Well maintained Germania B's with automatic takeoffs. Average production then was 75-85 pounds a day over the decade I milked for them.

    Just for a reference point, 4 guys put though 480-520 cows an hour for 7.5 hours. I can't attach that fast (7 seconds) but I can dip/strip, wipe, and post dip fast enough. But again they have a full time pusher, the scraper helping push cows about 1/3 of the time, an extra guy helps watch for kickers during fresh pen and a "kicky" pen. Clean-up is still half an hour with 4 guys working at it and another guy spending 4 hours pressure-washing floors and walls during the day. Every shift also has some overlap to allow breaks. That brings total milking efficiency to ~75 cows an hour vs. my 50 cows an hour. "Quoted" milking speed would be 120 cows per hour vs. 72 cows per hour, but that is a poor comparison to one guy alone in a tiestall wondering how long until it's supper time. Tiestalls are usually stated as being ~30 cows per hour, but that includes all that other "stuff" like setting up and cleaning.

  15. #15
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    I understand a lil better now, but are step ups really that much faster than a herringbone parlor? I work in a double six herringbone, and the best I've ever done is 60 cows an hour and thats without post dipping cuz its too cold out. The only thing that slows it dow is waiting for cows to get done milking, so it doesn't seem like it could be done much faster even if i had another person in the pit.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by WovenMeadows View Post
    ...or a 3 stall tandem/side-entry
    For a micro dairy, I'm a big fan of side-opener parlors. I have an old Surge sawtooth side-opener I was able to salvage. The price was right. Plus, no kneeling! Even with a step-up parlor, you're still going to be kneeling and squatting, although it wouldn't be as bad as a flat parlor. My 2 cents.

  17. #17
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    just train the cows to climb stairs.
    I milked for a place (in a different barn though) that poured the parlor so the stalls (walk throughs) were up 2 or 3 steps. They ended up almost as high as a regular parlor. No way I would believe it if I hadn't seen it.
    Cows stepped right up with no problems.

  18. #18
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    I have a dbl 5 parlor (originally a dbl3 herringbone) that cows walk up 5 steps to enter the parlor. The platform is about 4 concrete blocks high, and the cows leave by going down a ramp. Cows walk up steps just fine, takes a few minutes to convince a heifer to go sometimes, but usually they follow the group up the steps and down the ramp. I would not build another like this, but this is what I have and I use it. Cow flow would be better if the cows entered and exited on a similar level. Just how parlors were built around here in the 70's, there are several around set up similarly.
    Jared in TN

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by cows250 View Post
    So, unless I have a unit, cow, and person always waiting by every stall I am going to stick with 8 turns an hour as a theoretical max for a parlor. Sure you may be able to also aggressively select solely by milking time, but I have never seen a farm cull cows that took longer than 4 minutes to milk. Longer than 6-9+....sure they get culled or taken off early every time, but 5 minutes is a "normal" cow; making 12 turns an hour on average impossible.
    You stated "theoretical max." Theoretical is NOT the same as practical. The theoretical max for anything assumes you can get EVERY duck in a row, including things that may not be practical from a culling or management standpoint at this time. For most farms a practical max may be 8 turns, but I assure you my math is more than generous and sound in saying 12 turn theoretical max is possible. Something working in theory never implies that it is either cost effective or practical. In theory, given the biological constraints of a cow 12 turns an hour IS possible.
    DiederichFarm
    "You are only as good as your next success, not your last" Sir Jock Stirrup

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