Milking parlour 10 top tips for optimising milker comfort

Those working in agricultural professions are not generally known for taking it easy. When it comes to working in the milking parlour, most farmers are concerned with efficiency rather than comfort. However, given the time they spend on this task, creating the right conditions for milking is essential for staying healthy.

Did you know that 55% of work-related illnesses reported among farmers are linked to milking?

This repetitive, physical activity carried out on a daily basis is the primary cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among dairy farmers. Back and shoulder issues and even carpal tunnel syndrome are among the most common ailments. They cause chronic, debilitating pain that can also seriously impact morale over the long term.

So, what precautions can farmers take? A range of solutions are available to improve parlour ergonomics and increase efficiency. Some are easy to implement, whereas others are best explored as part of a milking parlour redesign or system upgrade. We’ve put together a list of 10 top tips to help you achieve a 5-star comfort rating for your milking parlour.

1. Use automation to gather cows

Don't have an automated crowd gate? There are always a few stragglers and you have to climb the steps to bring them in. Not just once, but time and time again! It's a drain on your time and puts too much strain on your knees. Automated cow gathering provides simple solution to this problem.

2. Go easy on the dipping

With manual dipping systems, you have to squeeze the cup to froth up the solution. If you work it out, for a herd of 50 cows, you'd need to squeeze it over 400 times per milking! This movement is very damaging to the carpal tunnel. Automated systems such as DipMAX or SprayMAX take the strain off your hands and wrists.

3. Use lighter clusters

Milking clusters can differ by up to 1 kg in weight depending on the model. So for 50 cows, that could be 100 kg in extra weight to shift every day! That kind of load puts a heavy strain on your arms and shoulders. Opt for lighter clusters. At under 355 g, the FloStar Max developed by Boumatic is as light as a feather! And at 270 g, the FloStar Xtreme is even lighter!

4. Work at the correct height

The recommended working height for a milking parlour is half the height of the milker. And when milking from the rear, another 10 cm is added to that figure. But what if there are multiple milkers of various different heights? You can fit your parlour with an adjustable floor to control the height depending on who is milking.

5. Intervene safely

Accidents happen as a result of discomfort and inconvenience. For example, when you have to put your head under the rump rail to get closer to a cow, you run the risk of getting kicked if it backs up. If nothing else, you risk getting spooked and taking your eye off the ball. Your response time will be delayed if the cow works itself loose at a bad moment. It’s also a good idea to maintain similar dimensions among your herd. Once you’ve done that, you can adjust your parlour appropriately. The correct working height, as discussed in point 4, is the best guarantee for safety.

6. Work smarter, not harder

As a general rule, your hands should never be lifted higher than your shoulders. Get rid of any on/off buttons that are placed too high. They should be at hip height. Better still, BouMatic's quick start system doesn’t require any manual intervention at all.

7. Set the right tempo

When milking from the rear or in a herringbone, the milker sets the pace. With a rotary milking parlour, it’s tempting to let the machine turn a bit faster, but then you risk not being able to keep up. This results in stress, discomfort and mistakes. The machine should be set to the farmer's pace – not the other way around!

8. Improve the ambiance

Be sure to eliminate any damp, draughty air! Good lighting (200 lux) is essential. Consider installing lamps at the cows’ feet. Visibility provides assurance – no need to crouch down to check how clean a cow's teats are! As for sound, a filtered air system will discharge the exhaust from pulsators. Vacuum pumps with variable speeds also minimise vacuum regulator noise levels.

9. Make detaching and cleaning clusters a doddle

Nowadays, the majority of milking parlours are equipped with automatic detaching systems, which are absolutely essential from an ergonomic standpoint! The technology used for disinfection and automatic dipping is also significantly more advanced. However, if you're doing it manually, a peracetic acid sprayer will make this tiresome job much easier.

10. Make for an easy exit

Once milking is over, a quick exit system will save you having to accompany cows as they leave the parlour. Such a big time-saver!

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