June - CellCheck Newsletter FINAL



Dr. Bernadette O’Brien Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co.Cork

How many cows can one person milk?

THE MILKING process should be recognised as the most important operation on the dairy farm. From a labour perspective it is the most significant task of the day, accounting for approximately 33% of total labour demand, irrespective of herd size. While all farmers aspire to an efficient milking process, the outcome will be a function of people, cows and capital investment, and these must interact correctly to give optimum performance. Milking parlours are run most efficiently when the capacity of the milking equipment matches the capacity of the labour person(s) milking the cows. The milking operator should not be waiting for the milking equipment (e.g. cluster) to become available and the equipment should be fully utilised, not idle and waiting for the operator to catch up. Thus, efficiency is maximised when the equipment and labour are balanced. Three important factors in this equation are

1. the work routine of the person;

2. number ofmilking units and presence of automatic cluster removers (ACRs) (to prevent over-milking);

3. stage of lactation (which influences individual cow milking time).

A further important factor is the length of time the operator may wish to spend in the milking parlour or how long the operator can remain efficient at the milking task, which is generally considered to be not longer than 2 hours. In order to add clarity to this issue, a research study at Moorepark investigated the effect of milking cluster number, pre-milking routine and stage of lactation on milking row time, over-milking and operator idle time, in a side x side parlour. As cluster number increased, row time and duration of over-milking were increased and idle time was reduced. The type of routine practiced largely dictates the number of clusters one operator can handle. In a one-person milking process, when a minimal pre-milking routine is applied, 22 milking clusters may be operated without experiencing over-milking


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