Useful Information for Planning a Milking Facility

If you are planning to start milking small ruminants you may find the following information useful:

Sizing the Milking Parlour.

1. Determine how many animals you plan on milking =

2. How many operators will be in the milking parlour =

3. How long do you plan on spending milking (per milking session not per day) =

Using the above numbers, please look at the tables on page /choose-the-right-milking-parlour, and size your ideal milking parlor design and size. One you have done this we recommend you give consideration for expansion. Where do you expect to be in 5 or 10 years time? Will your existing choice cope or will you have to expand?

We have worked with many farmers who have initially installed a 1 x 24 rapid exit for up to 300 animals and then converted to a 2 x 24 as they grew their business to handle 600 animals plus. Because they had this plan in mind from day 1 , they sized their facility to handle purchasing the additional stalls and milking equipment when their budget would allow.

 

Sizing the collecting area and pens where the goats are located.

The speed of milking in our tables discussed above do not include time to bring animals into the milking facility and allow them to exit. A well designed facility will allow easy loading and unloading.

We recommend you have a collecting area behind the milking parlour where the animals will walk into your milk-ing facility from. When sizing such an area, we work on 3.5 square feet per average Saanen goat giving an average of 1000kg per 305 day lactation.

When designing a collecting area if you need to slope it, slope it up to a milking parlour as goats like to stand up-hill. Also try and make it easy for the animals to see where they are going so the loading is not stressful. We recommend feeding in the parlor to motivate the animals to come in.

The use of backing gates which are optionally electrified in a collecting area is useful in keeping animals loaded. You can design the backing gate to move the correct distance every time the milking parlour is loaded. (If the backing gate has a sounder as well then once the goats are trained, you can turn off the electric fencer and just use the gate and sounder to get them in)

In the early days of goat milking in Ontario, animals were kept in pen the size of the milking parlour. For example if you have a 2 x 24 parlor you have a pens size group of 48 animals. Animals were kept in small groups to allow easy management of the animals when they needed attention. This concept has proven to be very time consuming when it comes to milking. With today’s technology it pays to have the largest pen possible with a good size collecting area which can hold 2 groups of animals separated by a backing gate.

For animal management we would recommend using technology available to sort the animal using a sort gate after she leaves the milking parlor.

When calculating the pen size we recommend square feet per animal with a 12 to 13” headlock space to access feed.

When comparing milking goats to milking cows, the greatest challenge is that the dairy goat farm is far more time consuming than an equivalent dairy cow farm, hence it is very important to design out as much of the in efficient labor functions as possible

 

How much milk are you expecting from your goats?

When developing your business plan you must have the income value from milk at the initial stages. The following comments should assist you in maximizing the milk production from your animals.

Diseases affect milk producing ability:

Goats with CAE OR CL have shown to produce less milk and require more treatments than those disease free, so starting with good genetics will provide improved milk production. However it is not always possible to access the best genetics. The best way to develop your milk production is to identify the animals which are producing good production and the least medical care needed to keep them producing. To achieve the optimum results having milk recording and a herd management system would allow you to get the information to cull your herd and develop their genetics accordingly.

With this strategy in mind, if you are not able to purchase such equipment from day one, you should plan your facility can take it at a later date with the following points:

• Make sure there is enough space between your milk line and the milking kerb for a milk meter.

• Design the parlour, so the slope in the operators pit mimicks the slop of the animal standing, and if possible the slope of the milk lines.

• In our milking parlour plans we include the space for a walk-through id system, if you incorporate that in your design we can add it at a later date.

• When the animals exit you should design the space for a sorting gate, as an automated sort gate will pull over animals that need attention when they leave the parlour. If an operator has to go into the pens and locate and catch animals the time required is large compared to an automatic sort gate.

Feeding:

There are 3 methods of feeding:

1. TMR = Total Mixed Ration, This is a mixture of crops grown locally and chopped up a fed to the animals

2. Complete diet pelleted feed, purchasing feed pellets from a feed company that believes they can provide all the nutrition required for the dairy goat.

3. A mixture of 1 & 2 above using the pelleted feed to fill in the nutrition gaps not provided by the TMR.

At Greenoak we have identified that the feed cost maybe as much as 55-60% of your milk production income in dollars. Even farmers who are planting ther own crops, once their labour cost is calculated the various methods of feeding are very similar in cost’s.

Because the feed cost is such a large portion of your business cost pie chart, it is an area you must maximize your efficiency to be successful.

Having data on animal production and analyzing how each of the above feed option could be improved is very important. Greenoak are presently engaged in researching accurate feeding with the analysis of milk production to maximize milk production.