week TEN: Turning Analysis Tools into Reality

week TEN: Turning Analysis Tools into Reality

This week we take a look at one of our analysis tools in action. Our own Dr. Doug Reinemann uses the Labor and Capital Analysis of Milking Centers, seen in week FIVE of this series, to help a dairy producer decide whether expanding the milking parlor and possibly changing its design would increase efficiency and production and still prove profitable. The dialogue below is taken from their conversation to find a solution.

Dairy Producer: We want to expand our parlor to a Double-10 or Double-11 (from a Double-8). If we make the parlor larger by adding more stalls, we will need to add more cows (potentially changing the dynamics of our dry cow and heifer housing and manure storage). Currently, we have a 100-cow holding pen filled with 140 cows and it takes us 7.5 hours for milking (540 head). Expanding the herd is not a big desire of ours but it would cut down on holding area time-which could increase production. Is this a good idea? Also, what are your thoughts on parallel vs. parabone design? It seems cows load into the parallel better but the parabone is cheaper.

Dr. Reinemann: That is a tough question. The parallel will position cows better. The parabone requires better cow handling skill to make it work well. The parabone usually ends up with attachment ‘around’ the rear leg closest to you, but does not give a straight shot from the back or from the side. One advantage is that there are some manufacturers who make a retractable hose support arm for a parabone–which is a good idea to control the weight of the cluster on the cow. I am not sure why you need to expand the parlor to give you more room in your stalls for big cows? I would not make the parlor size the driving factor in your decision. Can you explain why a stall refit would require adding more stalls?

Dairy Producer: It does not require it but may be cheaper to do now if we need to in the future. Alternatively, we could widen the stalls and put a drop rail in the front. What do you think of 33 inches on center for stall width? We would like improve stall comfort.

Dr. Reinemann: I know that the goal is to give cows more room in the parlor. If I understand correctly, you can modify the stall in the existing building to give you 33 inches per stall with a parallel with drop rail in front. If you want more room for that you need to modify the building.  If so, your options are: 33 inches per stall with a D-8 in the existing building or bigger than 33 inches per stall and/or more stalls with building modification.

Dairy Producer: Actually, we have room for 12 parallel stalls 27 inches on center on the existing platform.  We currently have 8 stalls in the middle with room for 2 more on each end.

Dr. Reinemann: OK, we are getting closer. It really depends on your longer term plan and if you have the ability to invest in a new building now. If you modify your existing stalls and leave the building alone you will have a less than perfect situation, but a lot better than you have now and not accumulate much or any debt. If I do my math right 12 parallel stalls x27 inches would also allow for 10 stalls at 32 inches. As for the best stall width, I would put a tape measure on your biggest cows and see how that looks. You could also mock up a fake stall and see how cows move in and out of it if you have some time on your hands. Given the importance of this dimension, I think it might be worth the trouble. If you bite the bullet and modify the building and the stalls at the same time you will have a ‘perfect’ situation for the next 20 years. So, just like when you decided to build the parlor, is this a short term get-by or is this part of a long term growth strategy. I always get nervous when the parlor size drives the herd size. Seems to me it should be the other way around.

Dairy Producer: We are going to make the stalls wider within the same building. It would be very inexpensive to make it a D-10 instead of a D-8, as it is now. The thought was to have less time in the holding area per cow per day. I realize the d-10 is an odd size , what would be our increase in through put or turns on a D-10 vs D-8 parlor? We are about 70 cows per hour now. I would prefer to stay with a D-8, but would less time in holding area make more milk? I am worried about the prep, maybe prep 5 cows? We have 1.5 milkers: one pushes cows and then helps milk.

Dr. Reinemann: My guess is that the change in holding area time will not have a huge effect on milk production. You might not even be able to detect it if cows already have good access to feed and water already. I think a prep5– attach5 routine would work just fine. A bit long on the lag time is actually a good thing for most cows.

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Dairy Producer: We have the D-8 parallel now with stalls for a D-10 already installed, all we need is 4 used units and 4 used takeoffs. My biggest concern is cow through put with a D-10 vs current D-8. We would like to milk another 130 cows. Is that possible? To remind you, we currently milk 540 in 7 to 7.5 hrs, sometimes they get done earlier. However, we do not want to add milker personnel.

Dr. Reinemann: Happy to hear the stall adjustment was successful. Milking cows cheap is a good way to make $$!! I have ran some numbers on my parlor planner. Here is what I get when I estimate your current situation with 540 cows and D8 and 1 person in the pit.

Here is what I get when I estimate the same routine in a D10. I just increased the number of stalls and then cranked up the cow numbers until I got the same total time. You got up to 620 cows (added 80 cows).  That does not quite meet your goal of adding 130 cows. If you want to make it go faster you could;
1. Put on a maximum milking time and take units off slow cows sooner (my recommendation),
2. Shorten your prep time – if you dare.
3. Try it out and see what happens (parlor pressure usually improves ‘efficiency’).
4. Put in another person – not a good economic decision.