Transitioning a milking parlor: One dairy’s experience

One example of how a growing dairy solved the issue of upgrading their parlor with a minimum of impact on the milking routine.

Dairies the world over are faced with the dilemma of how to improve their facilities in a cost-effective, non-intrusive manner. Here is one example of how a growing dairy solved the issue of upgrading their parlor with a minimum of impact on the milking routine.


A year and a half ago Venture Farms moved into a 15 year old Double-8 Herringbone parlor. Although the parlor had been designed to handle a capacity of 250 cows, Venture Farms came in with almost 500 milking cows. They knew it was simply a matter of time before changes would have to be made. Not only were they taxing the facility to begin with, they also wanted to grow their herd size.


With the goal of milking as many as 800 cows within the next 3-5 years, a decision needed to be made on how to expand the current milking facilities in order to handle the numbers. In the words of Joel Riehlman, one of Venture Farm’s partners, “we needed to find the least cost way of moving more cows through the parlor.”

They determined that the most cost effective means of accomplishing their goal would be do a short-term remodeling job, utilizing cash flow to pay for it. By upgrading from a Double-8 Herringbone to a Double-10 they would be able to add cow numbers in order to increase cash flow. They reasoned that a Double-10 would hold them for the next 3-5 years and allow them to also expand to their goal of 800 milking cows. This would also give them time to plan in more detail for the future.

That short-term remodeling job consisted of adding four milking units to the Double 8 parlor, one at the front and back of each side, thus creating the Double 10. To accommodate the added units they took 45 inches away from the holding pen. In terms of actual construction, according to Reihlman, “a lot of the pre-fab work was done off site.” When installation took place, the cows were simply milked on the opposite side.

Through “excellent cooperation with our local dealer” the transition proceeded smoothly and was completed within 21 days. The cows were milked in the parlor, right through the remodeling, alternating sides as necessary. Occasionally a second milker was added during the night milking to allow them catch-up as necessary in the milking to keep the cows on schedule as much as possible.


When asked if there had been any problems with the cows during the process, Riehlman noted that the cows balked a bit at the noise, but for the most part accepted the commotion and continued their 3 x daily routine. If there was any change in production “it was too little to notice”.

“This was a relatively small project and the dealership did a great job in keeping disruption to a minimum”, according to Riehlman. From start to finish the complete process took only 20 days and on Day 21 the milking routine was back to normal.

Now, with a Double 10 herringbone parlor in place, Venture Farms expects to be able to increase their herd size to 800 cows. Increased milking capacity will contribute a great deal to the over all profitability of the herd and also allow time for the next set of plans to be thought through.


Decisions such as the one Venture Farms made are dependent on different variables in individual situations. Clearly thinking through the goals and restrictions will help determine the action to be taken.


Eileen Nelson

Eileen Nelson
1 articles

Former Editor of

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