A. Types of Milking Systems

The way you milk your animals is as unique as you or your farm. Types of barns and milking systems for dairy farming tend to be regional. This could be due to climate or due to adaptation of technology to certain areas. If you are looking at building a facility from scratch, learn about all of the possible styles of milking and see what works best for you and your farm.

In general, milking systems are divided into:

  • Loafing area
  • Milking Area
  • Feed Storage
  • Milk Storage/Milking System Cleaning

Loafing areas can be:

  • Pasture or paddock area
  • Barn yard
  • Bedded pack
  • Free Stalls
  • Tie Stalls/Stanchion

Milking systems are generally:

  • Parlor
  • Bucket milking systems
  • Pipelines
  • Hand Milking

Parlors are also divided into:

  • Parallel
  • Herringbone
  • Side Opening
  • Rapid Exit
  • California Flat
  • Step up
  • Rotary

Tie Stalls/Stanchions

  • Metal Bar and Chain
  • Comfort Stalls
  • Stanchions

When choosing any of the above, understand that you can have ANY combination of the above in your system. For example, you can graze your cows, bring them into a tie stall and milk in a parlor into buckets!

To learn more about these systems:

B. Considering Your Facilities
There as many types of milking systems and barns as there are dairy farms. It is impossible to make any two farms alike. Climate, management, feed available, and breeds/species contribute to this difference. For those that are starting out in dairy farming it is important to understand what it is that you want to achieve. Some may be interested to know what they bought and how adaptable it is to milking with current rules and regulations.

Regional preference may dictate the style of facility that is available. Generally these systems take climate and available markets into consideration. For example, you are less likely to see a New England Bank barn with stanchions in the desert than a greenhouse barn with open sides in far Northern climates.

When considering the building of your own facility you need to take into consideration:

There are laws that pertain to shipping milk. The product that you make will determine the level of inspection that you have to meet. Grade-A for fluid milk that crosses state lines is more strict than milk for cheesemaking only.

Check with your state Inspection body at (search for “Start Dairy”).  States will either follow the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) or they use it as a guide and have their own rules that they have you follow. Most rules are written for cattle. Goats and sheep may be exempt.  It is important to understand the laws as they pertain to your farm.

  • Visit local dairy farms
  • Go to twilight meetings and pasture walks
  • Look websites that outline various milking systems and parlor/barn designs.
  • Good quality air. A dirty closed barn not only makes you sick, it makes the animals that spend more time in there sick.
  • Prevailing wind. Siting your barn to take advantage of prevailing wind is rather important.
  • Dry, comfortable resting space. This can be inside or outside. If you will not lie down there, why should they?
  • Access to feed. Will bossy animals prevent subordinates from accessing feed or water. How easy is it to clean and replenish?
  • Water must be available at all times. Dairy animals are water intensive animals. They must have ready access to clean water. Some animals, such as goats, will only drink water that is fresh and cool.
  • Confident footing. Animals who slip and fall are less likely to move around. They need to have dry footing that is not slippery or cluttered.
  • Consider manure management when designing loafing areas. If it is all hand labor, how clean will the animals actually be? Try to consider getting into packs, walk ways and yards with a skid steer or tractor with loader.
  • Pasture Management. The best quality dairy products come from animals that are grazed.  How convenient is the barn to pastures, lane ways, and water systems. It is generally better to sit the barn away from water ways such as streams, brooks, and creeks. How do the animals come into the barn?
  • Accessibility from road. If you are shipping milk or fresh products, access to good quality road ways from the milk house and processing facility is extremely important. If you are making butter or cheese, a more remote location is accessible if there is adequate storage space available.