HerringBone Or  Parallel?
...or Rotary, Flatbarn, Side Opener, ParaBone? 
Or a Milking Robot, for that matter.

As you are planning to leave the Stanchion barn behind, you have a basic decision to make - "Which system is best for me?" All depends on....

      - How much longer are you planning on milking cows?
      - How many - and how big might you grow?
      - What's your budget?
      - Who will be milking?
      - Got any kids coming into the business? The cows have to support how many            families as you work into the future?
      - What's your location?
      - And many other considerations.

For roughly 80% of dairymen, the decision comes down to:

 "HerringBone or Parallel?"

It shouldn't be much of a decision - HerringBone, naturally! There's a lot of myth and misinformation about Parallels. If you are seriously leaning that way, you may want to study up. After all, you are making a 30 or 40 year decision....

HerringBones with Arm TakeOffs are the way to go. 

      - People and cow friendly
      - Flexible and adaptable
      - Cleaner way to milk, for both people and the equipment
      - With better and more flexible management options
      - Scientifically correct machine removal
      - It's easier to find good help for a HerringBone, but above all
      - You'll get substantially higher productivity! See "What Size of Parlor?" 

Milking in a Parallel - more myth than magic:

      - 'You walk less in a Parallel'- Really?
      - 'Parallels fit into a smaller building' - Yes, a bit smaller, though mostly bunk
      - Parallels cost less - only one way to find out: Get competitive Proposal for               both parlors.
      - ... and so on.
Rotaries

Rotaries are a good way to go. They are gaining in popularity, especially for large herds -1,000 cows and up. There's only one drawback - once you decide on a size, you can't expand. Let's say you decide on a 40-stall unit to milk 250 cows an hr. You can't grow above 1,750 cows on 3 X or 2,500 on 2 X milking.

Not a problem - by then you can afford to install a second unit.
Flatbarns

Your most economical choice. Better than a stanchion barn, not nearly as good as a HerringBone, but if you are on a tight budget.....go for it!
Side Openers or 'Auto Tandems' 

Times have passed them by.  Questionable productivity, expensive to maintain, impossible walking distances.
ParaBones

Your next best choice after a HerringBone if you are on a budget
Milking Robots

An Interesting development!

Milking Robots have been around for some ten years and are here to stay. Two are coming from Holland (Lely and Prolion) and one from Sweden - DeLaval's VMS. For what it's worth - Lely is to Robots what Germania and HERITAGE are to Parlors. The Best!

They may be a viable choice for smaller operators - up to maybe 200 cows, requiring (4) units. Be weary of larger installations.

Robot installations of 5 or more units have been marginally successful. For the few that are running successfully there are multiple times as many others that have shut down. Simple reason - maintenance cost , management attention and 'baby-sitting' go up exponentially. 

Fair statement: 
"It takes way more time, labor and money to run 6, 8 or 10 robots than to milk them in a conventional parlor." 

We hear good things about installations with one or two Robots. They do indeed free you from milking chores. Though you need to stay within range of the pager (or - if you go to Mexico, have someone knowledgeable within range)

How cost effective?

Figure on $250,000 give or take for  the first two units to milk 100 cows. After that, figure on another $150,000 for every 50 additional cows or $3,000/cow - forever!

Once you get to 200 cows you have invested $550,000. For which you could have built a very nice Dbl.12 all-stainless HerringBone with Arm TakeOffs - in an equally nice building - and be all set to milk 650 cows 3 X or close to 1,000 cows 2 X. .

Remember Total Cost of Ownership!

Robots have a useful life of only about 5 or 7 years! Has to do with 'Technical Obsolescence'. 

Entirely computer controlled and about as 'High Tech' as they come, current models have no resemblance to models seven and ten years ago - from the same companies!

If you consider a Robot, ask yourself this question: "If I knew about a five or seven year old robot coming out of one of my neighbor's barns, would I buy it?" And if 'Yes' - "How much would I pay for it?" More than scrap value?

In other words - five, six or seven year old robots have no market value what-so-ever. 

Assuming you are thinking about buying three of them for $400,000 to milk 150 cows you need to add $400,000 / 6 = $65,000 / yr (or roughly $450/cow/yr) to your annual Cost of Ownership (In addition to maintenance, insurance, interest and labor - all of which you have with a parlor as well).

Or looked at differently:
Additional Milking Parlor Options
- Invest the $400,000 into a first class dbl. 12 parlor
- Hire a part time milker (at 3 hrs/shift or 6 hrs per day or $20,000/yr)
- Save $40,000 on your annual Cost of Ownership 
- Grow your herd to your heart's content, and
- Still own a great parlor 30 years from now!

Just ask Doug Maddox who bought (4) dbl. 12 all-stainless ProTime I HerringBones with Arm TakeOffs in 1981, milking 3,000 cows 3 X around the clock to this very day. 28 years and counting!

Or Bill Braum, for that matter, who owns (4) dbl. 50 ProTime Is, milking 12,000 cows 3 X since 1990. Coming up on 20 years.

Or Case VanDerEyk who milks 11,000 cows 3 X thru (6) dbl. 30 ProTime Is since the early 90's.

Venture a guess at their Cost of Ownership per cow per year?

 Roughly $7 for Doug, $10 for Bill and $13 for Case 
Costs continue to decline for every year they continue to milk in those parlors.  
- Most economical - other than Flatbarns
- Less expensive than Parallels
- They need marginally more space than Parallels, tad less than HerringBones
- Lower maintenance cost than Parallels
- More cow friendly than Parallels
- though not much cleaner
- Conventional Exit available (not available with Parallels - if you don't need rapid exit, you'll have to buy it anyway. 
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