Switch to Conventional Parlor Boosts Herd Health

Robotic milking is often hailed as the future of dairy farming, but it doesn't suit every system - and conventional parlors can produce better results.
calendar icon 9 July 2021
clock icon 3 minute read

As every dairy producer knows, attention to detail is the key to high welfare, health and productivity, and milking through a conventional parlor can help with this focus. When combined with the latest technology for maximum cow comfort, the results can be truly impressive.

The Claeys family farm at Lembeke in Belgium, and recently swapped out their robotic system for a new conventional parlor from Fullwood Packo, in a bid to grow cow numbers. As a result, herd health and productivity have improved markedly, while enabling herd numbers to increase from 240 to 340.

“We take the wellbeing of our cows very seriously,” says Koen Claeys, who farms with his brother Kristof and father Mark. “Being able to have a comprehensive overview during milking is essential for us. We make sure all cows are seen individually, so that we can check each one and treat if necessary. Our new parlor allows that hands-on connection while the milking technique supports better results and healthier udders.”

Having visited several farms with different parlors, the family opted for a Quick Series parallel parlor, attracted by the combination of straightforward robust design and more advanced benefits. These include Fullwood Packo’s unique Streampulse milking technique and the ability to observe cow health via additional smart monitoring tools.

“The new parlor fits in well with our routine,” confirms Mr Claeys. “We milk twice a day; with a backing gate the cows smoothly enter the milking parlor without stress or disruption. We always have one person in the parlor to clean the teats, pre-milk and check their udders before connecting the cluster. In the meantime, someone else cleans the beds and makes sure that the other group is immediately replenished in the waiting area.”

The brothers are particularly impressed with the effect of Fullwood Packo's Streampulse milking technique This creates a longer milking column and more precise vacuum levels, collecting at least 50% of the milk yield in the first two minutes, while gently handling the teats for more comfortable cows and improved udder health.

“The suction during connection has stood out,” says Mr Claeys. “Milking is always comfortable. Even larger groups are easy to handle. We see a real difference. The cows are calmer and come to the parlor more easily. There is peace and quiet in the barn. They’re completely relaxed and at ease.”

Mastitis cases have dropped from five per 240 cows to two per 340 cows since switching to the new parlor, and the rare case that does occur is quick and easy to treat.

“The milk quality has also improved,” adds Mr Claeys. “Among other things, the fat content is better without any fat splitting.” This is because the previous pumps brought in a lot of air, whereas the new pumps don’t. “As a result, we now receive a quality premium which, together with our lower maintenance costs, has notably increased our profits since we adopted our new setup."

With the robotic system, the cows were housed, but now the brothers are considering more grazing options.

“Production is increasing and we’re improving milk quality and cow comfort,” says Mr Claeys. “In every way, we’re seeing benefits for our farm. It goes to show that it’s worth finding a milking setup that fits your farm. For us, cow comfort is a priority. We’ve found a solution – and better way of milking – that supports us in that. Life on the farm is more peaceful for both us and our cows. Realizing that improvements could be made and taking that step to finding a new way of milking has made all the difference.”

Farm facts

• 340 dairy cows

• 170 cows on straw

• 170 cows on cubicles

• 260 youngstock

• 100 beef bulls

• Average of 29 liters per cow per day

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