Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

0109 PD: Sustain the milking parlor with water and energy savings

Norm Schuring Published on 23 December 2008

Have you ever calculated the amount of water and energy used to maintain your milking facility and each of the practices you have decided to employ? Water and energy are required for a myriad of daily functions in the milking parlor, including equipment cleaning, sanitization, precooling milk and water heating for various uses.

When this energy and water are wasted, their extra costs to the dairy can be substantial.



Beyond the cost, and also of critical importance, is that sustainable use of energy and water is better for the environment and a more responsible approach to managing a dairy business as we look to the future.

You can do your part and ensure resources are conserved by considering a few simple updates and changes to your milking facilities – without sacrificing milk quality and udder health.

Limit wastewater production during milking
Most of the wastewater generated on the dairy is either directly or indirectly related to milking and facility cleaning.

Water is used for washing parlor stalls and related components, and cleaning and sanitizing milking equipment. There are, however, ways to maintain parlor and cleaning efficiency while eliminating use of excess water. Here are a few ways to accomplish both goals:

Limit water use during prep
When following proper milking protocols, not much water is needed if udders are relatively clean. This means that keeping bedding dry and housing areas clean can limit the water necessary for udder prep and parlor cleaning.


Too much water at prep is not conducive to milk quality, as bacteria flourish in moist environments and can be carried by water into the teat canal. Match wash water levels in the wash with system requirements. For milking systems that do not use clean-in-place wash manifolds, keep water levels just above the teat cups.

When using clean-in-place wash manifolds, keep the water level above the bottom of the draw pipe. Completely filling the sink will waste water. For clean-in-place systems, only use enough water to get units clean.

Properly adjust air injectors
The air injector system allows slug washing of the pipeline milking systems by moving slugs of cleaning solutions through the pipeline rather than flooding the system for cleaning. Adjusting air injectors for optimal air movement, water and chemical needs can reduce the required amount of cleaning solutions by 10 to 30 percent.

Inspect water hoses
Regularly inspect water hoses and repair when necessary. Use nozzles on the hose to conserve water. Nozzles also help to increase water velocity and improve cleaning ability.

Scrape holding areas and parlor floors. About 20 percent of the total of the herd’s manure is excreted in the holding pen. Scrape manure from the holding area and parlor floors before spraying them down. Collected solids can be delivered to manure-handling systems, reducing the water required to keep floors and walkways clean by as much as 30 percent.

It also helps to reduce the amount of solids, nitrogen and phosphorus found in wastewater. Opportunities to help reduce water usage may require implementation by adding or modifying systems or components.


Although there may be up-front costs to execute these changes, the savings realized from using less water and reducing wastewater storage has been shown to be far greater than the initial investment.

Manage parlor energy needs
Managing costs and making energy a sustainable resource has come to the forefront with rising energy costs. Dairies today average between 800 and 1,200 kilowatt hours per cow per year, but some dairies use far more energy to sustain their operation’s needs.

Energy costs can be significant for any dairy, even when the resource is not overused. For example, a 1,500-cow dairy using 950 kilowatt hours per cow per year can spend nearly $125,000 annually on electricity alone.

Even though these costs may only represent a small percent of milk production costs, a few minor improvements in energy usage can reduce energy dependence. Researchers suggest almost half of the energy used on the dairy is related to milk harvesting, so the first place to focus energy sustainability is in the milking parlor.

According to NMC’s Udder Quarter publication, there are many viable ways to keep energy costs reasonable while ensuring optimal equipment and process function.

Producers can help lower energy costs while sustaining high-quality milk by addressing the following:

Refocusing heat recovery
Getting water hot enough ensures the effectiveness of detergents for milking equipment and wash system line cleaning. A refrigeration heat recovery unit is one piece of equipment that can help conserve energy. This helps to capture the heat generated by the farm’s refrigeration system and diverts it to preheat water.

This unit can help reduce a farm’s hot water costs by 50 percent while heating water to 100 to 120 degrees before it enters the hot water tank.

Installing a precooler
The Pasteurized Milk Ordinance requires all milk to be cooled to 45 degrees within two hours of the end of milking. High levels of energy are necessary for this regulation to be met.

One way to cool milk more quickly while reducing energy demands is with the help of a precooler. The precooler is usually added to the milking system between the milk receiver jar and the bulk tank, using well water as a coolant to lower milk temperatures close to the recommended water temperatures.

The use of a precooler has the ability to reduce milk cooling energy costs by 60 percent.

Improving compressor efficiency
Scroll compression systems can reduce energy needs by making the compressor 15 to 20 percent more efficient than a traditional reciprocating compressor. Work with your equipment supplier to identify if scroll compression would work for your operation.

We continue to learn the importance of sustainability on the dairy, and inside the milking parlor is no different.

Energy and water, two of the core tenets of sustainability, are used heavily in the harvesting and cooling of milk, as well as the cleaning of milking equipment and systems.

By using alternate methods to accomplish these tasks, you can achieve your high-quality milk and cleanliness goals while minimizing your reliance on water and energy and, ultimately, benefiting from lower electricity and water bills. PD

Norm Schuring currently serves as the first vice president for the National Mastitis Council.

Norm Schuring
Vice President for GEA WestfaliaSurge