Getting the dairy exit design right increases work efficiency and reduces injuries. Milking efficiency is improved through reducing the amount of time milkers spend encouraging cows out of the dairy and well designed exits will reduce cow injuries.
Key issues to consider when designing an exit race include:
- The exit path should be as free from restrictions as possible.
- Exit lanes should be at least 2.5, preferably 3, metres wide.
- Having a turn at the exit helps stabilise the exit rate of the cows and can be safer - if there is a turn there should be a clear 3 metre passage for the cows.
- If cows exit from an elevated platform, steps are preferable to a ramp and should not be too steep. Make each one 120mm high and 800mm across the step. Do not put any slope on them other than to prevent water ponding.
- Pendulum or scissor type gates or curtain gates are better as they can intersect cows when moving, instead of having to swing in front of the cow.
Ideally, in herringbones the first few cows in the new batch should be able to follow the milked ones as they leave - the exit gate can affect cow flow.
When using gates, the milker must have good control over cow movement and be able to intercept any cow in a single file line.
Cows entering the dairy should be able to follow directly behind those leaving, reducing dead time in the milking routine.
A good exit gate should have the following features:
- opens and closes quickly and is easy to operate.
- is controlled from any position in the pit.
- is aligned well with cow angle - i.e. match cluster spacing.
- pendulum or scissor types gates (horizontal swing gates are harder to close from within the pit). Ensure there is at least 1400mm clearance (height) at the breast rail.
- is wide enough to allow for good cow-flow.
Be aware that almost all exit gates have pinch and crush points.
Project to consider
Cows are often slow to move off the concrete exit area and on to the race. To overcome this, concrete enough space to hold at least half a row of cows at 2m2 /cow.
Cows will flow out well on to the concrete and can slowly disperse while the next row is being milked.