New Penn State 'Dairy Idea Plans' feature automatic milking systems

May 07, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Extension is offering three new “Dairy Idea Plans” intended to give dairy producers and industry professionals fundamentally sound and functional layouts for dairy housing systems and components.

The plans feature design principles of cow comfort in resting areas, natural ventilation, and feeding and watering areas, according to Dan McFarland, extension agricultural engineer. They have been developed for dairy housing systems that use fully automatic milking, he noted.

“All three of these plans include layouts containing a freestall section for approximately 120 milking cows, along with bedded pens for special needs and pre-fresh cows,” McFarland said. “Individual plans feature two automatic milking system units arranged in unique configurations. A support area including a milk room, office, utility room and restroom is located near the milking area. Dry cows and replacement heifers are housed in separate locations.”

Automatic milking systems — often referred to as AMS — continue to be popular on dairy farms in the United States and around the world, McFarland pointed out. But many design considerations — including ventilation, stall size and arrangement, and feeding and watering areas — are similar, whether cows are milked in an AMS or a parlor.

“However, herds using AMS rely on voluntary cow entry to the milking unit, so additional unique or desirable design factors are needed,” he said. “To encourage cow flow to and from the AMS units, a more open design around each unit is needed. Minimizing labor is one objective of AMS, so designs that allow one person to move cows easily and perform routine tasks within the barn are necessary.”

There is no single barn design that will suit all dairy farms and dairy producers, McFarland explained. This new series of “Dairy Idea Plans” is intended to help dairy producers, agricultural engineers, contractors and others involved in design and construction of AMS dairy facilities consider alternative system features and layouts that work best for each dairy’s individual goals and management style.

The “Dairy Idea Plans" using automatic milking systems were developed by a Penn State Extension team that includes McFarland, agricultural engineer John Tyson and dairy educator Mat Haan. The team currently is developing more plans that will feature different milking herd sizes and building layouts.

The new “Dairy Idea Plans” can be accessed here. Also available on the website are plans under the headings of “Calf and Heifer Housing,” “Building Component Details,” “Tie Stall Barns,” “Freestall Shelters, Layout and Farmsteads,” “Special Cow Facilities (dry cows, maternity, mobility pre/post fresh, hospital)” and “Historical Plans.”

For more information, email McFarland at dfm6@psu.edu.

About Penn State Extension 

Penn State Extension is dedicated to translating scientific research into real-world applications to drive progress. In support of Penn State's land-grant mission, extension programs serve individuals, businesses and communities, while promoting a vibrant food and fiber system, a clean environment, and a healthier population in Pennsylvania and beyond. With support from federal, state and county governments, the organization has a tradition of bringing unbiased information and support to the citizens of Pennsylvania for more than 100 years.

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Last Updated May 07, 2021