Consider what is Needed to Milk Cows

Cows that are milked, need to be milked regularly. One cow may be able to be dealt with, without a lot of manpower, organisation or equipment; but when you are milking a lot of cows, twice daily, you need to be very well equipped and organised.

Siting of Dairy Premises

Very careful consideration should be given to the siting of the dairy premises as they are probably the most frequently used buildings on the farm. It is important that they should be easily accessible by road for the daily dispatch of milk. In addition, access should be convenient for the cows which come to them at least twice daily. Other important points to be taken into account are as follows:

- The dairy should be within a reasonable distance of the homestead but should not be sited closer to residential quarters than the law allows. Check the current legislation.

- The dairy should be situated on well-drained ground which is preferably high than the surrounding area to facilitate drainage.

- The dairy should be provided with a good piped water supply as an adequate supply of clean, safe water must be readily available.

- The dairy should be conveniently sited near a reliable source of electricity.

- The dairy should be so sited as to fit into the general farm layout with easy access to grazing and feeding pens.

- The dairy should be on the windward (upwind) side of the roads and other dusty places in order to keep dust to a minimum in the dairy.

- The dairy and wash-room should be on the windward side of the milking shed. The cows will thus be protected as far as is possible from the elements.

The Milking Shed

Very careful consideration should be given to the milking routine to be followed as well as the equipment to be used. There are many satisfactory designs for milking sheds and parlours which can be adapted to suit individual needs. It is strongly advised that the layout and construction of a new dairy be discussed with extension officers. If a milking machine is to be installed, the agent of the firm responsible for the installation should be consulted.

The following points provide a general guide to the requirements for a milking shed and are also applicable to parlours as far as construction materials are concerned.

- A conventional milking shed should be large enough to accommodate all milking cows in not more than three relays. The size and throughput of a shed depends on the design and the time available for milking.

- The floor must be of impervious material, concrete being by far the most suitable. Concrete to the depth of 10 cm should be laid on a hard core base, and if constructed properly should last the life of the building. Efforts to economise in concrete work frequently lead to trouble and prove to be a false economy. A poor floor can never be effectively repaired but must be lifted and re-laid.

- The floor should have a slope of five centimetres from the feed trough to the manure channel and the whole milking shed floor should slope towards the drainage point in a fall of about twenty-five centimetres for every two metres. Manure channels should be wide and shallow (a depth of ten centimetres is generally amply) and should have straight sides in order to minimise the danger of cows slipping.

- The floor should be smooth enough to allow for easy cleaning but should be slippery. Dairy cows can damage their udders if they slip and fall heavily.

- Good ventilation and lighting is very important.

- It is advisable to provide feeding passages in front of the cows and these should be one metre wide.

- The feed trough should be one metre wide from front to back in order to allow the cow sufficient room to lift its head into a comfortable position without stepping back into the manure channel. It is advisable that the feed trough should stand one metre high on the feeding passage side and twenty-one centimetres high from the level at which the cow stands.

- The feed trough should be so built that the lowest point is about two and a half centimetres above the level of the standing (area where the cow stands) and twenty-three centimetres from the inside of the wall at the standing. An open type of feed trough is most suitable as individual feed troughs are difficult to clean.

- Stall divisions should preferably be of metal piping and can be between every second cow, allowing a width of one metre per cow. The divisions should be two-thirds of the length of the standing.

- Cow ties, yokes or side or centre chains may be used for restraining the cows. Whatever type of tie is used, a quick release device should be incorporated. This allows the tie to be released quickly should the cow panic. Ties that cannot undo quickly can lead to the cow being strangled.

- In a double range shed, the cows should face away from each other and the central walk and dunging passage should be at least two metres wide. If cows face each other, there must be a feeding passage of at least one and a half metres wide.

- The roof should be of corrugated iron or similar material and may be pitched or of lean-to design. It must be high enough to provide ample head room (a minimum of 2.74 metres is required).

- Walls should be of brick or similar material and should be cement plastered on the inside to a height of at least 1.52 metres.

The Dairy Room and Wash-up Room

These two rooms should be situated in a convenient position for access from the milking shed and for supervision of the work going on.  The following are general construction points:

- Walls should be of brick or similar material and all internal walls must be smooth plastered. The average height should be at least 2.74 metres.

- Floors must be constructed of impervious material (concrete is good) and should have a two-way slope to facilitate drainage.

- Adequate light and ventilation are essential.

- A suitable ceiling is advisable in the dairy room and is essential for certain types of roof construction and materials.

- Doorways should be wide enough to allow equipment to be moved into the rooms.

- The rooms must be fly-proof and rodent-proof.

- The size of the rooms depend on the amount of milk to be handled, but the dairy should not be less than 4 metres by 4 metres and the wash-up room should not be less than 4 metres by 4.26 metres.

Milkers' Wash Room and Lavatory

Legislation requires that adequate washing and sanitary facilities be provided for milking staff. A room fitted with a shower, should be provided as a washing and changing room for dairy staff. In water borne sanitation is provided, the lavatory may be part of the dairy building. Alternatively, a properly constructed pit latrine should be constructed at least 30 metres away from the dairy premises.

Water Supply

A clean, safe water supply is essential. If there are any doubts about the purity of the water it should be tested and treated. Plentiful quantities of water are essential for dairying purposes.


Disposal of effluent must be carried out in an approved manner. This may include the use of:

- A sump which is drained daily

- A drain with a solids trap to prevent the drain from becoming blocked and useless

- A cement lined drain leading to the compost heaps or an irrigation system. 


The main requirements are:

- Suitable equipment for providing adequate supplies of hot an cold water.

- Three rust-proof metal wash troughs, semi-circular in sections and approximately 0.81 x 1.3 metres. All joints should be smooth and sealed. Concrete wash troughs are not acceptable.

- A metal sterilising chest constructed of galvanised iron or steel plate with a steam-tight door, a drain hole at least 2.5 centimetres in diameter in the bottom and a rack about 1.22 metres from the bottom. Brick or concrete chests are not acceptable.

- A steam-raiser of sufficient capacity to provide adequate steam for sterilising all equipment. Unmodified steel drums are not suitable but a properly modified and installed steel drum may be used and makes a comparatively cheap alternative.

- If milk is to be kept for any length of time or delivered once a day, a suitable mechanical form of refrigeration is essential. The most popular and effective way of cooling has been the churn-immersion system which can be used in conjunction with in-churn or surface coolers, using chilled water from the immersion tank. However, the techniques of refrigeration are advancing rapidly and the farmer would do well to "shop around" and find out what suppliers have on offer.