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Parlor Performance II

March 8, 2022
3 min

Goals for parlor efficiency can be described as follows.  

  • Have cows enter the parlor and occupy the stalls calmly, yet quickly. For side by side parlors the goal is approximately 1 second per stall to move from the entrance of the parlor to the front stall.
  • Have a milk harvest technician begin an excellent udder preparation routine as soon as possible after the first cow turns into the front stall.  By following this recommendation, cows will have adequate stimulation of the udder for excellent oxytocin letdown and the teats will be clean, dry and stimulated when the units are attached.  
  • Have the unit be applied to the cow as close as possible to 90 seconds after the start of udder preparation.  Units should be attached to the cow with minimal or no air leakage, which minimizes excitement to the cow.  Immediately after attachment, units should be properly adjusted.
  • The cow should milk out quickly and completely.  
  • The unit removed immediately upon cessation of milk flow.
  • Have the cow exit calmly within a minute of unit removal.
  • Have the next cow occupy the same stall calmly yet quickly to begin the process again.

Another key factor in parlor efficiency is to minimize the time between unit removal from one cow to attachment of the same unit to the next cow.

This can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Delays in cow entrance into the parlor from the holding area
  • Delays entering the parlor and occupying the parlor stall
  • Delays between the time when the cow occupies the parlor stall and unit attachment
  • Delays when exiting the parlor
  • Delays due to an empty holding pen between groups of cows
  • Delays from attachment of the first unit on a side to the last unit on the same side
  • Delays due to long unit on time for one cow holding up the rest of the side
  • Delays due to equipment factors decreasing milk flow rate (i.e. low vacuum)
  • Delays due to inadequate stimulation decreasing milk flow rate during udder preparation process

One common recommendation made to producers is to make the take off settings “less aggressive.”  Less aggressive means to remove units sooner.  Aggressive milking is when liners are opening and closing on teats with very low milk flow.  While less aggressive takeoff settings are always in the best interest of the cows and their teat ends, changing settings will only result in improved parlor performance if when milkers finish attaching on one side the other side of the parlor still has units milking.  

Parlor performance can only be evaluated by being in the parlor during milking to review the procedures used to prep one cow and the routine employed to milk groups of cows.  Although it is important to review records on automated facilities, this is never the best method to evaluate parlor performance.  Careful observations of cow behavior not only as they enter the parlor, but also as they are touched and handled during udder preparation, as units are attached and throughout milking are necessary to fully understand parlor issues.  Always walk the entire dairy facility to allow observations to be made of the manure management, cow comfort, and cow handling procedures.  Failure to evaluate the entire dairy will often lead to faulty recommendations being made to the producer regarding parlor performance.

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