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6 practical tips for helping a milking shift go smoothly

Kelli Woodring for Progressive Dairy Published on 13 May 2020
dairy parlor

I've had many different jobs on the farm: from calf feeder to breeder to managing employees, but up until recently, I didn't spend much time actually milking the cows.

You learn pretty quickly what works and what doesn't. It's so important to have a good flow in the parlor – both humans and cows. So I have a few tips and tricks I've picked up on that may help you keep the parlor flowing smoothly. 



1. Do as much as you can to make your next shift easier. I know how it can be sometimes; you just want to be done milking and go home. So you leave the floor dirty, you don't start the towels in the washing machine, you leave everything a mess. But you are just going to have to deal with it next shift or make the next crew have a bad start. Finish cleaning everything, fill up the dip cups and make sure the towels are clean and dry. You will thank yourself later. 

2. Be patient in the holding pen. I actually believe we have the most stubborn cows that ever existed. 1669 has to be first in the parlor, but only on the right side. If you bring her in on the left side, she will stop halfway up and not move. Some cows have their routine and some truly do not care. But the more frustrated and worked up you get in the holding pen, the more agitated the cows will be in the parlor, which means more pooping, more kicking and more dropped milkers. So don't raise your voice, and just take your time. 

3. Spray down when you have breaks. Our cows are in groups of 50. Once we finish a group, the parlor is empty for a few minutes until the next group is ready. We take this time to spray off the floor and the milkers. If we get in a rush and don't spray down, we usually end up with a milker that falls right into a big pile of manure. Or it takes double time to clean up at the end. Just make sure you are not spraying underneath the cows; wait until they exit the parlor. 

4. Communicate with your co-workers. We always have two people in our parlor, and they have to talk to each other. We let each other know when we are low on towels, when all of our milkers are off or how many more cows we need in the parlor. It's simple to shout out "three more" to the person bringing cows in. And it makes sure both people are working together in case there's a stubborn cow holding up the line and creating a backup of the flow. 

5. Double check everything before you leave. Is the wash system running? Is the tank cooler on? Are all the gates chained? We have a checklist for the more forgetful people. I like to do a quick walk-through of the milkhouse before I leave because a lot of important tasks need to be completed there in order to start milking the next shift. Something as simple as forgetting to switch the system to wash can delay the next shift at least an hour. Or forgetting to turn on the tank cooler will lead to a spoiled batch of milk and money down the drain. It's best to double-check before you leave than to get a call the cows are out because you weren't sure you chained a gate. 


6. Group the high cows and slow milking cows together. I promise this will save you the most time milking. We have the high and slow cows in the first group. Sometimes I have to sit down and drink come coffee while waiting for these cows. We have to be extremely patient with this group, but once they are finished, we fly through the rest of milking. 

I hope a few of these tips can help you out in your parlor or you can just relate to the daily struggle that sometimes being a milker is. I actually do enjoy working in the parlor, and it gives me the best opportunity to become familiar with our cows.  end mark

PHOTO: Getty Images.

Kelli Woodring
  • Kelli Woodring

  • Dairy Producer
  • Shippensburg, Pennsylvania
  • Email Kelli Woodring