Gone are the days when dairy farmers would sit on a stool and milk each animal by hand. Today, milking parlors are exclusively designed to mass milk a large herd at once. The modern structures have significantly optimized the milking process, with parlors being designed to milk an increased number of cows and goats quickly and efficiently. The rapid exit milking parlor system is an excellent example of mechanical innovations that have allowed farmers to keep up with the growing dairy demand.
While there are different types of milking parlors, they all essentially serve the same purpose. They allow small and big ruminants to enter the area when it's time to be milked and then return to the feeding or resting area once their udders have been relieved. Traditionally, milking parlors require a large area to ensure maximum comfort for the animals. However, the rapid exit milking parlor and robotic milking systems have enabled farmers to milk more cows and goats in a shorter time frame and less space.
The technological advancements in dairy farming and agriculture have also prompted small farm owners to install automated milking systems and rapid exit milking parlors for goats, sheep, and cows. Since it is a rather wide-ranging topic, this guide will focus on most dairy farmers' most pressing question about a rapid exit milking parlor: is it truly worth it?
So, if you are thinking about upgrading your farm with a new rapid exit milking parlor for goats, we have put together a detailed analysis of its advantages and disadvantages to help you make the right decision. However, before we delve into the pros and cons, let's take a quick look at how this modern system works.
What Is a Rapid Exit Milking Parlor?
A rapid exit milking parlor is a mechanical stalling system that allows one operator to milk as many as 300 goats per hour. If you add another operator to the process, you can easily increase the number to 500.
These parlors allow animals to enter the milking area in a sequence. Depending on the milking parlor you have installed, the individual sequencing gates will enable goats to load into the correct stalls. Next, the system scans their ID tags to access the relevant recorded data about each small ruminant, such as the last time it was milked or the shape of its udder. Please note that this detail may vary with each milking system.
Since goats are smaller than cows, one may think it is relatively easy to keep them in place during the milking process. However, some goats can be extremely stubborn, while others may move a lot once the milking begins. Therefore, most rapid exit milking systems come with automatic headlocks designed according to the animal's morphology. They help prevent unwanted movements by holding the goats in place.
In addition, the headlocks ensure a clear view and better access to the udder. This position makes it easier for the operator to clean and stimulate the teats before attaching the milking units to the animals. As the goat is milked, the system measures and records the yield for future use.
Once the goat has been milked out, the operator can initiate takeoff. With one lever or button, the goats are released from the milking parlor, allowing them to return to their pens or feeding area. Some goat milking parlors also have a feeding option to keep the animal busy during the process.
It is worth mentioning that an average rapid exit milking parlor for goats is sturdy, durable, and built to last. You can find these systems in multiple stall numbers and sizes. Fortunately, most can be upgraded to keep up with the increase in herd sizes. Usually, this is considered a profitable investment for dairy farms with 200 to 700 small ruminants.
Nevertheless, suppose you are planning to replace the static milking parlor with a rapid exit system. In that case, you need to determine three things:
- 1How many goats will you be milking per day?
- 2How many operators will work in the milking parlor?
- 3How long do you plan on milking goats per session?
Advantages of Rapid Exit Milking Parlor for Goats
These are some of the most prominent advantages of installing a rapid exit milking parlor on dairy farms.
Fast Loading and Exit Times
This one is a no-brainer. The most significant advantage of these goat milking parlors is their fast loading and exit times. The automatic sequencing gates enable goats to enter the stalls efficiently without unnecessary delays, significantly reducing the overall milking time.
Similarly, once the animals have been milked, and the operator has removed the milking units, the parlor gates open automatically. This allows goats to exit the milking parlor instantly. The operator can then quickly wash the parlor before the next group of animals comes in.
For a more time-efficient process, consider building a collecting area behind the rapid exit milking parlor from where the goats can walk into the facility.
Faster Milking Times
Another benefit of a rapid exit milking parlor is that it ensures faster throughput.
The design of the milking stalls provides operators with clear access to the rear end of the animal, allowing them to clean the udder and attach the milking units proficiently. It also reduces the milking time for each session, enabling dairy farmers to milk an increased number of small ruminants per hour.
The faster milking time frees up several hours of labor, providing farmers with an opportunity to focus on other tasks.
More Space Efficient
Rapid exit milking parlors are more space-efficient, enabling dairy farmers to milk many goats simultaneously. Most of these systems can also be expanded to handle an increased herd as farmers grow their businesses. For example, if you have installed a 1 x 12 rapid exit system for up to 150 goats, you can convert it to 2 x 12 to milk 300 goats or more.
However, if you are planning to add more stalls and milking equipment a few years down the road, you must make sure to size your facility accordingly.
Improved Milk Production
Disruptive environments, health problems, and heat are the main reasons for lower milk production in animals. However, sometimes goats don't let their milk down when they are anxious, worried, or stressed out. Since static milking parlors involve more than one farmer and can be quite frenzied at times, the goats may not relax during the milking process.
Fortunately, the rapid exit milking parlor diminishes this problem by reducing the number of humans involved in the milking process and allowing the goats to enter the parlor in a sequence. These milking parlors are built to provide optimal comfort to the animal, making the milking experience completely stress-free and resulting in a higher yield.
Reduced Risk of Injury
Another great advantage of rapid exit goat milking parlors is that they significantly reduce the risk of injuries among animals and operators.
The automatic gates assist goats in entering the parlor one after the other. This decreases the chances of any commotions as the animals get loaded into their respective stalls. In addition, the milking stalls are built according to the size of small ruminants. While they don't make the goats feel constricted, they can prevent excessive movement and lower the animal's chances of slipping and falling during the milking process.
A rapid exit system is also a great option to milk particularly stubborn goats, as the automatic gates of the parlor can absorb the shocks from their kicks.
Increased Workforce Productivity
Lastly, but most importantly, rapid exit milking parlor increases the workforce productivity while reducing the labor hours. It allows farmers to spend less time milking goats and more time working on other projects, such as expanding the farm.
Additionally, the modern mechanical system allows them to reduce labor costs and other expenditures.
Disadvantages of Rapid Exit Milking Parlor for Goats
Like everything else, rapid exit milking parlor for goats also has certain disadvantages. But do they outweigh the benefits? Let's find out.
Higher Operational Costs
The installation and operational costs associated with rapid exit milking parlors are generally higher than a static system. The reason is that most of these systems are electronic or automatic, which involves a lot of moving parts such as bearings, cylinders, rams, and more.
In addition, the maintenance and upkeep of these milking parlors may also cost a little extra compared to the alternative. However, if you choose to upgrade to a rapid exit milking parlor, the increased milking frequency, higher milk yield, and decreased labor cost can offset the difference with time.
Relatively Difficult to Feed
Since the automatic gates open and frequently close for faster loading and exit, feeding the animals during the milking process can be tricky. In other words, goats may not be able to feed properly in a rapid exit milking parlor.
Our Final Thoughts
There are pros and cons to everything. Nevertheless, the benefits certainly overshadow the drawbacks when it comes to rapid exit milking parlor for goats.
These mechanical systems help dairy farmers save time by ensuring a faster milking process. They also promise quicker loading and exit times, reduce the risk of injuries for animals and operators alike, increase milk production, and help cut labor costs by decreasing work hours.
However, on the flip side, these goat milking parlors can be a little heavy on the pocket–especially for small family-owned dairy farms.
If you are interested in learning about dairy farming tools and equipment, our comprehensive dairy farming guides can help you. Moreover, you may also want to check out the best equipment for small dairy farms.