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Parlor Performance Basics

March 8, 2022
3 min

Several factors, including the number of milk harvest technicians and desired milk quality interact to determine parlor efficiency. One of the most important efficiency factors is maximizing the total pounds of milk produced.  

The best method to evaluate this is to calculate milk production as a per stall per hour of operation number. This number can be calculated in any parlor or stall barn system whether or not meters or milk monitoring devices are installed.

The information needed is the time in hours and tenths of an hour, the total amount of milk produced during the milking and the number of units. The calculation is made by dividing the total milk produced by the number of milking units and the resulting milk weight is then divided by the total time.

On many dairies, total cows milked per day or per hour is commonly used as a proxy for pounds of milk output but too often is used as the only measure. When cows are not prepped properly, throughput can increase even though less milk is produced! This is not the desired goal for any herd.

In simplistic terms, increasing milk per stall per hour can be achieved in three ways:

  1. Increasing production per cow
  2. Increasing the average milk flow while units are attached
  3. Decreasing the amount of time units are attached to cows.  

Production per cow may be influenced more by other factors such as nutrition and cow comfort. Cows milked calmly after adequate stimulation give more milk and will milk out quicker and more completely. To achieve high maximum milk weights harvested in the parlor or barn on a daily basis requires excellent pre milking udder preparation procedures that ensure high quality milk and excellent mastitis control. Consistency of the udder preparation procedures and routine are the most important factors for maximizing both parlor throughput and milk production.

Management's goal should be to bring cows to the milking parlor as clean as possible at every milking and in as calm a manner as possible. Cows handled in a calm manner move slower with less manure splash on the back of their front legs, lower body, and most importantly on the teats and udder floor than do cows that are pushed aggressively to the parlor.

Calm cows will more willingly enter the parlor and will have better primary oxytocin letdown during udder preparation. A primary goal for any dairy is to have good stockmanship and cow handling. Animals thrive when handled in a quiet, calm manner in an environment where they feel safe.  

Maximum flow rates and fast, complete milking are achieved when cows are consistently prepped and units are attached to plump, full teats.

Adequate oxytocin requires at least 10 to 12 seconds of teat contact time during stripping, washing or drying teats.  Units should be attached as close as possible to 90 seconds after the teats are first touched during the preparation procedure.  

On many farms, when milk harvest technicians “slow down” and follow the SOP (standard operating procedure) then the overall milking will speed up and the technician’s job becomes easier because there are fewer liner squawks and fall off requiring milkers to go back to adjust or re-hang units.

Consistency in udder preparation is a critical factor on many dairies. Variation between milkings and milkers are significant issues.

SOP’s are required and all milk harvest technicians must appreciate that how they perform the procedures and the routines during milking will impact both the overall udder health and profitability of the farm. Technicians have control over how clean teats are when units are attached. The level of mastitis is directly related to the number of bacteria present on teats and teat ends when the units are attached.

Guidelines for milk per stall per hour are as follows:

  1. 2X Parlor herds > 170 pounds/stall/hr (68 kg)
  2. 3X Parlor herds > 150 pounds /stall/hr (50 kg)

Remember the most important number is where the herd is now and what happens when changes are made to the milking procedures, milking routine, or milking equipment settings. The higher the better!

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