A milking parlor is the area where cows are milked. A cow needs to be milked 2 or 3 times a day or about every 8 to 12 hours. Cows spend most of their time in the free stall barn where they eat, drink, lay down and socialize. Cows are moved in groups from the free stall barn to a holding area. The cows then enter the parlor where the milking process happens. Current recommendations are that a cow spends no more than one hour in the holding area and parlor for each milking. There are a number of different kinds of milking parlors. Cost, available space, number of cows and personal preference go into the decision on what type of milking parlor to invest in. Flat barn parlors, swing, parallel, herringbone and rotary parlors are the most common. The end result is the milking parlor contains the cow to allow an operator or multiple operators, to sanitize the cow’s teats, attach the milking unit, harvest the milk and sanitize the cow’s teats again at the completion of milking. The milking parlor should have excellent lighting and ventilation.
The milking unit uses vacuum and pulsation to gently remove the milk from the cow’s udder. After the milk leaves the cow, the goal is to get it cooled and stored to about 35 degrees as fast as possible. The milk flows from the unit that is attached to the cow to a stainless steel line which carries it into the milkhouse. The milk leaves the cow at her body temperature around 101 degrees. It passes through a plate cooler which uses 55 degree well water to cool the milk and in turn warms the water which the cows prefer to drink. The milk then goes into a bulk tank where freon is circulated to cool it down to the final temperature or another plate cooler using propylene glycol and direct loaded onto a tanker trailer or milk silo.
The milking process can also be accomplished by a robot. One robot can milk about 60 cows, 3 times a day. The free stall barn is configured different and the robot is in the pen where the cows are. Each robot milks one cow at a time and there can be multiple robots in the pen. For the most part, there is no human intervention in this milking process.
Most cows today are milked in a parlor or by a robot, but some are milked in a stanchion or tie stall barn. The cow is milked in the stall that she eats, drinks and lays down in. These are generally smaller farms that milk 100 cows or less. The operator carries the milking units from cow to cow. The pipeline that the milk travels in goes around the entire barn.