Herringbone entry & exit


2 min read

Herringbone entries Dairy entry design Herringbone exits Exit race Exit gates

The page covers the essential design considerations for dairy entries and exits to ensure efficiency and cow welfare. It highlights the need for safe, reliable footing, a controlled slope at the entrance, and proper lighting conditions. Additionally, exits should be designed for easy drafting and quick, safe cow movement, with specific guidelines for exit paths, lanes, and gates. Attention to these details will improve cow flow and milking efficiency, reduce injuries, and make the overall process more productive and humane for your dairy farm.

Herringbone entries

The connection between the yard and the inside of the dairy should be designed to encourage cows to enter. Poorly designed entries will have a huge impact on cow flow and milking efficiency and may affect cow welfare.

Dairy entry design considerations

  • Safe, reliable footing is essential so cows can move confidently. Scabbling or grooving the surface if slippery is an option.
  • The slope of the entrance to the dairy should not exceed 4% (1 in 25).
  • The milking area should be open to sunlight if possible. Cows moving from a sunny outside holding yard may hesitate at the entrance if it is much darker inside.
  • Sharp, dark shadows across the concrete can be interpreted by cows as a barrier, causing them to pause before crossing.
  • When it is dark, make sure cows do not have to look into bright lights as they approach the dairy entrance.
  • Cow entrances and exits should be clear and wide. Clear platform areas are best for good cow movement.

Examples of good entry design elements

Lead in rail height

Bail lead in rail height

Have a lead in rail so 2-4 cows can line up facing forwards before the start of the milking bails.

Lead in rail height


Fit a rotating back rail to hold last cow in place.

Good rotating back bar


Scabbling or grooving concrete can help traction and stability - make grooves consistent with drainage direction.



A diamond pattern with groove size 12mm wide and 12mm deep on 75mm centres, provides more traction than simple parallel grooves.

Scabbler 2


Avoid places where cows can hurt themselves, like protruding pipes and edges. Pipework should be flush across cow contact surfaces.

Bail lead in rail height


Skylights combined with natural lighting can even out light levels. Consider installing translucent polycarbonate roofing and/or walls.



Avoid places where cows can hurt themselves. Image shows a protruding pipe protected by deflector.

Protruding pipe

Herringbone Exits

Exit races should be designed to enable easy drafting and ensure cows can leave the platform quickly and safely.

Getting your exit design right increases work efficiency and reduces injuries.

Exit race

When designing an exit race, it’s important to consider:

  • The exit path should be as free from restrictions as possible.
  • Exit lanes should be at least 2.5 but preferably 3 metres wide.
  • Having a turn at the exit helps stabilise the exit rate of the cows (if there is a turn there should be a clear 3m passage for the cows).
  • Steps are preferable to a ramp if cows exit from an elevated platform and should not be too steep. Make each step 120mm high and 800mm across the step. Do not put any slope on them other than to prevent water ponding.

Exit gates

In herringbones, cows entering the dairy should be able to follow directly behind those leaving, reducing dead time in the milking routine.

When using gates, the milker must have good control over cow movement and be able to intercept any cow in a single file line. Be aware that almost all exit gates have pinch and crush points.

A good exit gate should:

  • Open and close quickly and be easy to operate (horizontal swing gates are harder to close from the pit).
  • Be controlled from any position in the pit.
  • Be aligned well with cow angle, i.e. match cluster spacing.
  • Have at least 1400mm clearance (height) at the breast rail.
  • Be wide enough to allow for good cow-flow.

Steps are preferable to ramps.


Scissor exit gate with sufficient clearance. Scissor gate

Last updated: Sep 2023

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