Herringbone routine


2 min read

Creating a more efficient milking routine Efficiency troubleshooting Herringbone routine animation Herringbone control points animation

Here you’ll learn about ways to make your herringbone dairy more effective, often for little or no extra cost. The swing-over herringbone is the most common dairy type in New Zealand, used on 69% of dairy farms. Simple changes save seconds per cow, and that quickly adds up. There are ways to save time in almost all herringbone milking sheds. The key to improving efficiency is to use a consistent milking routine for all milkers. Shorter milkings have several benefits -  improving staff satisfaction, lessening mastitis and reducing lameness. Making changes is simple and reversible, so you don’t have to wait until the end of the season to assess the impact of changes. If something hasn't worked, it's easy to change back at the next milking. 

Creating a more efficient milking routine

There are a number of ways to compile an efficient milking routine depending on individual dairy design. However, the following elements have been identified as key elements that good routines have in common.

  • Don’t wait for all the cows to row up – start cupping once the first batch of cows is loaded.
  • Aim to cup first cow in the row within 30 seconds of her being in position and the adjacent cow being finished.
  • Use an efficient cupping technique.
  • Work in batches of 5-10 cows, completing all tasks as you go starting at the exit end of the pit.
  • Avoid leaving cows to come back to, or waiting for cows to finish milking. Implement a MaxT milking strategy.
  • Open the head gate when 50-75% of the cows have had their clusters removed. This gives cows time to start exiting while you finish the rest of the row.
  • Move the backing gate little and often to take up the free space in the yard. By moving it little and often you minimise gaps in cow flow.
  • Don’t leave the pit unless you really need to.
  • Hose under cows with cups on. Hosing as a row is exiting and the next row is loading slows down cow flow by spraying water in cows faces and also risks splashing teats with dirty water prior to milking.
  • Ensure meal is fed after the row is loaded.
  • To minimise walking in the pit, consider the location of controls for the backing gate, head gate etc.

Efficiency troubleshooting

  • if you experience waiting during milking, start with milking duration.
  • if you are removing clusters with no milk visible in the sight glass, or ACRs are coming off before you get to them, start with milking routine.

In summary, many farmers have managed to make significant savings by adopting a routine that:

  • eliminates unnecessary idle (waiting) time from the routine
  • minimises distance walked/steps taken by the milker/s
  • enables the exit gate to be opened at the earliest opportunity.

Herringbone routine animation

Compare the territorial or zone method to the more efficient bunny-hopping method. Bunny-hopping allows the head gate to be released earlier and minimises the time spent waiting for the row to exit. A well-designed shed with good cow flow is needed to get the most from the bunny-hopping method. 

Herringbone - efficient milking routine

Video 4:18 min

Herringbone control points animation

See how the location of key controls affects the amount of walking in the pit. Re-locating the backing gate switch is a common low-cost change to improve efficiency, whereas changing the swing head gate to one that can be opened and closed from the majority of the pit is a more significant investment.

Herringbone Control Points

Video 6:02 min

Last updated: Sep 2023
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