Rotary entry & exit


2 min read

Rotary entries Design considerations Entry races Rotary exits Signaling the exit Key considerations

Dairy exit and entry races refer to the design of the pathways that lead cows in and out of the milking platform. Good exit and entry design can speed up the milking process and reduce cow injuries. For exits, signals like a bar in the rump rail, water sprays, or compressed air can guide the cows, and the exit area should be spacious with rubber matting for comfort. For entries, ensure safe footing and a well-lit area, avoiding sharp or dark shadows, and consider rubber matting and appropriate pipe placement. Both the design elements can significantly impact efficiency and animal welfare on your farm.

Rotary entries

Improve cow flow and milking efficiency by ensuring the connection between the yard and inside of the dairy is well designed.

Poorly designed entries can have a negative impact on cow welfare and cause stress for handlers.

Rotary 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.

Entry races

Although not essential, a single file entry race can help cow flow. Less dominant cows are more likely to enter of their own accord as they cannot be bullied by other cows. When designing an entry race, make sure of the following:

Cows walk onto the platform in single file

The entry race should be at least one cow in length (approx. 2m). Two cow lengths (3m) are beneficial if you need to slow cows down for electronic ID systems or feeding in-bail.

A slightly flared entry from the yard

This allows the next cows in from the yard to encourage the cows in front onto the platform.

Rubber matting

This reduces slippery surfaces - there can be considerable pushing in the entry area.

No places cow can hurt themselves

Pipework should be flush across cow contact surfaces (horizontal pipes on the cow-side of vertical posts for example).

Key rotary bail entry measurements. K=around 1200mm, L=around 900mm, M=around 2500mm.

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Left side good (horizontal pipes mounted cow side of vertical pipes), right side bad (sharp edge to catch hips).

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Rotary exits

Dairy exit races have a big impact on how quickly cows leave the milking platform, and how easily they can be drafted.

Reduce the amount of time milkers spend encouraging cows out of the dairy and reduce cow injuries with good exit design.

Signaling the exit

Cows not exiting the platform once finished milking negatively affect efficiency.

  • A bar mounted in the top of the rump rail (in photo) can act as a good first signal to the cow that it is time to exit, followed by dripping/spraying water, compressed air or a hanging visual barrier.
  • Cows are creatures of habit so if using water or compressed air, control it from the cups-on position so that it is not going continuously.

A bar mounted in the top of the rump rail can act as a good first exit signal.

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Water spray used as an exit signal.

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Key issues to consider when designing an exit area

  • Ideally, the exit is at least 2½ bails wide. For large rotaries (greater than 60 bails) at least 3 bails should be considered to allow cows a similar amount of time to exit as a smaller rotary.
  • The exit area should be at least 3m deep to allow plenty of room for cows to turn around.
  • Preferably cover this turning area in rubber matting for cow comfort.
  • The exit path should be as free from restrictions as possible.
  • The exit race should be at least 1.2m metres wide, and be as short as possible before joining the main race.
  • Ensure the place where the exit race joins the main race is maintained in good condition

Good example of a rotary exit.

Last updated: Sep 2023
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