Skip to content

Improving work life balance – Tips on best parlour design

Farming has a reputation as being a tough, time-consuming job that places many demands on those running the farm. When it is going well it is a very rewarding life and there is no better feeling than seeing a well-fed, healthy, high-yielding herd on the farm. Quality of life is becoming more important for farmers and their families as people realise that a healthy work-life balance is what drives healthy living. Attaining a good work-life balance has become more of a priority for the modern dairy farmer.

Importance Of Parlour Design

Parlour type and automation levels can be key for farmers looking to improve their work-life balance. Finding out what type of parlour suits your needs is usually the first step in the design process. Research has shown that modern operator-controlled systems (OCS) perform better than automated milking systems (AMS). They require less labour compared to an AMS and the revenue using an OCS is generally much higher. Currently, the rotary option is very popular due to increased herd sizes. The aim of any milking facility is to have all cows milked and the parlour cleaned in 1.5 hours; anything after this the operator’s concentration levels will decrease. If your herd size is approaching 200 cows it is time to start thinking about a rotary parlour. The biggest advantage of a Dairymaster rotary is cow throughput which is exceptionally good and the operator and cow comfort are optimised.

Get Advice From Professionals

When thinking about buying a Dairymaster rotary parlour, there are several factors to consider – the company’s professional and experienced design team go through each of these in detail in order to design the facility that best suits your specific needs.

The team looks at:

  • Designing for the cow
  • Designing for the operator
  • Layout of the buildings and site
  • Parlour requirements
  • Air flow
  • Accessibility
  • Biosecurity
  • Existing buildings
  • Energy efficiency
  • Automation requirements

It is also important to future-proof your plans for your new parlour and consider the following questions:

  • What will your herd look like in 10 years’ time?
  • Do you plan on purchasing more cows in time?
  • Will the next generation be taking over?
  • Any land restrictions to limit the number of cows you have in the future?

In this video you can see why farmers all over the world choose a Dairymaster Swiftflo Revolver Rotary milking parlour.

Designing For The Cow

The best way to design a parlour that works well is to prioritise optimal cow flow to and from the parlour and to optimise operator comfort. Optimal cow flow from and to the parlour can be established by creating a smart layout. Cows do not like sharp bends, level differences, slippery floors or protruding objects. Angles should be greater than 90° and the entire layout should have a minimum amount of turns. Also ensure that the design is tailored to your cows’ size as well. Nothing is more infuriating than finding out after installing the parlour that animals are restless due to a lack of space or that you must bend over too much for a simple attachment of clusters.

Design For The Operator

If you milk on average 1.5 hours per milking twice daily, you are close to working 1,100 hours in your parlour per year or 21 hours per week. With herds increasing, more is required from the farmer both physically and mentally and comfort in the parlour becomes paramount Milking comfort can be achieved by designing milking equipment ergonomically. This means that the platform and all other necessities are custom-made to your requirements and size. Think about a movable floor (Comfort+ floor) and controller units at the right height. Working areas should be well ventilated, but not draughty and it must be well lit. Aim to use as much natural light and ventilation as possible to cut down on costs – for example, by installing large roller doors on both sides of a rotary parlour.

Layout Of Buildings And Sites

The next step in the process is to get your parlour designed according to your site’s requirements. There is a whole lot more to designing a parlour than one would initially think about. Are you planning to build in an existing building, or is it a green field site? With most Swiftflo rotary installations it’s a greenfield site; however, during the design phase the existing cubicle shed is normally incorporated into the design to ensure good cow flow from yards and grassland.

The following are some things to consider:

Power Requirements

Is there enough power available to feed all the installations you would like to have in your parlour?

Air Flow

Adding extra buildings could severely reduce natural ventilation in your existing buildings which in turn can increase construction costs. Think about placing to prevailing wind direction to ensure maximum ventilation. A parlour should be dry within 1.5 hours after cleaning. A damp environment invites micro-organisms increasing lung and mastitis cases on farm. It also causes the operators to work in a damp and often smelly environment. Dry fresh air is beneficial for job satisfaction and will keep your herd and workers healthier.


Careful thought needs to be given towards accessibility for milk and feed trucks, especially when building on a greenfield site. The milk truck driver should be able to access the milk tank without making too many manoeuvres and the milk tank area should be closed off from the parlour and other rooms. Don’t forget that there also needs to be space and easy access for the feed bin/silo.


A hygiene area where the truck driver can sanitise himself should be provided to safeguard biosecurity.

Existing Buildings

Buildings directly associated with the parlour also belong to the design. What is the best position for the dairy? When working with personnel toilet and shower facilities should be in place as well as a canteen / living area and an area to change clothes.

Automation Requirements

Automation is where the gadgets come into play. There are different levels of automation. The most basic one should include automated cluster removal (ACR) and automatic cow identification in order to optimise work efficiency for the operator. Another great tool is the use of an automated backing gate which is almost always incorporated into the spec of a rotary parlour. Make sure that the collection area is well sized for your herd. At the higher spec of automation, one should be thinking about Voice Assist, automated teat spraying and cluster flushing systems such as ClusterCleanse and fully integrated smart milking point controllers such as the Swiftflo Commander. These units combine information from several different systems on the farm such as the milk cooling tank, heat detection systems and milk quality reports and display this information right at the point where the farmer can act on it.

Energy Efficiency

Even though it is a higher investment upfront, energy saving options for your rotary parlour are well worth the investment. Return on investment is usually within a short period of time (up to five years). Think about investing in heat recovery technologies for warming up water to a minimum of 55° while cooling the milk. Or invest in a super insulated milk cooling tank to slash your cooling costs. A variable speed vacuum pump in the milking parlour will control vacuum levels during milking saving you money in electricity and ultimately reducing wear and tear of your equipment.

Build Quality

Oscar Wilde famously said that a cynic is “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Build quality is very important when making a choice for the next 20+ years. The entire range of Dairymaster rotary parlours are of a very sound structure with strength where it matters, meaning it is built to last and this is evident when you look at rotary parlours installed by Dairymaster. Tom Brown’s Greenhills dairy installed its Dairymaster Swiftflo Revolver 18 years ago and is currently milking over 1,000 cows a day.

Customer Satisfaction

The Swiftflo Revolver has a well-earned reputation for being extremely cow friendly and safe due to its design with sensors at both the cow entry and exit. Dairymaster’s design department works closely with customers all over the world to tailor the design of the parlour to their specifications. Dairymaster provides a full set of drawings which are designed to specifically suit your farm and give you the best solution for your project. Its team provide expert advice ensuring you get the best layout for your farm.

Back To Top