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The Low Cost Alternative to Milking Parlours

17 June 2008

US - Many dairy producers have been put off purchasing milking parlours due to the large amount of money that they believe needs to be invested, but according to a Randy Pepin, lower cost alternatives are now available.

Why is there interest in lower-cost parlor options? The first reason that usually surfaces is personal health, answers Randy Pepin of the University of Minnesota Extension.

"Many of our former 30- to 40-cow herds are now milking 60 to more than 100 cows in their present tie-stall/stanchion facilities. Bending down to milk cows can create a severe strain on farmers’ knees and backs, forcing many to consider building a pit parlor or exiting the dairy business." He says.


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"Many of our former 30- to 40-cow herds are now milking 60 to more than 100 cows in their present tie-stall/stanchion facilities"
Randy Pepin, University of Minnesota Extension.

The second most common reason dairy farmers consider a parlor is labor efficiency—less time spent milking cows. Other reasons are increased safety for both the operators and the cows; ease of training new people to milk the cows; and easier adoption of other labor saving and cow-comfort technologies such as Total Mixed Rations (TMRs), fence-line feeding, compost and bedding pack barns, and free-stalls.

A major potential cost-saving strategy is to convert the present tie-stall/stanchion barn to a pit parlor with a holding pen facility. The existing barn already has an attached milk house, the farm well water is already in the building, and frequently a manure handling system is in place. As a result, cost savings of utilizing the existing structure could be more than $100,000 before constructing the actual parlor.

Another easily adapted technology is the swinging milk unit concept commonly called the swingparlor. The milk line runs down the middle of the parlor pit above the operator’s head, allowing each unit to milk cows on either side of the pit. The swing parlor saves substantial money in milk unit investment.

The significance of the low-cost parlor concept is that it enables many smaller dairies to incorporate the advantages of a milking parlor within an achievable budget. The actual construction cost can vary from as little as $20,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the situation and the options added. With a low-cost parlor, many dairies can continue to milk the same number of cows or grow slowly within from their herd replacements.

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