At WoolDrift, we were in the unique position to build a dairy operation twice (including parlours), because of a forced move in 2000. That allowed us to use our experience with our first parlour to build a better one next time round.
Our original parlour was a single-eight, self-locking, cascading head gate on a movable platform with ramps to get the sheep up and down, combined with a pail-milking set-up. This was a relatively cheap way to get started; the platform was locally built and could be moved into an existing drive shed that was modified to contain a waiting room, the parlour, a milk house and a used walk-in freezer. When we built it in 1994, we spent about $12,000 for the original set-up and four milking claws.
The new parlour is a single-12 quick-exit parlour that was build by a local welder to our specifications. We looked at a number of different parlours all over the world (in pictures or on personal visits) and picked the features we liked. Our parlour is located level with the elevated waiting room floor constructed from expanded metal, and the animals walk down a ramp after milking to leave the parlour.
This saves us having to clean the waiting room daily; we now clean below the waiting room floor once a year with a skid steer. We find that the ewes enter more easily and are more quickly trained to the stall system than to the old head gate system. Especially nervous ewe lambs do better when not “grabbed around the neck” by a head gate.
We also made sure that the parlour is just the right width for our sheep, remembering that a ewe’s “width” varies depending on whether she’s shorn or not.
Another important feature in choosing our design was the absence of hydraulics, motors and complicated parts that can break at inconvenient times. The exit gate is balanced to make it easy to open and close with a simple lever. This parlour cost around $5,000, the purchase and installation of the pipeline milking system added another $12,000.
The parlour has a two-inch high-line pipeline, six claws and six removable milk meters. The cleaning is done by a timed controller in the milk house. The controller adds acid and disinfectant agents automatically; the detergent is manually added before starting the wash cycle. One hour before milking the system runs a sanitation cycle.
The claws are not cleaned in place; instead, they’re brought into the milk house for washing. This way the claws and collection pieces are immersed in the cleaning solutions and cleaned on the inside as well as the outside.
We’re happy to show you our system if you’re in the area. Please give us a call, and arrange a visit.