When you purchase a new car, you get a ream of optional extras to choose from, not necessary to the running of the car, but to improve the look of the car or make it more pleasant to drive.

Milking parlours are no different. Cost per unit will depend on the size of the parlour, but generally start at €3,000/ unit for your bog standard spec, right up to €8,000/unit for all the bells and whistles.

The great thing about parlours compared to cars is that you can start off with a low spec and gradually add on these additional extras as you go, or as cashflow allows.


Now a standard feature on most new parlour builds, automatic cluster removers (ACRs) are top of the list when it comes to parlour add-ons. It is recommended that where are there are no ACRs fitted, the maximum milking units per milker is 16, with this figure increasing to 24 units per milker where they are fitted.

The main benefit to ACRs is that cows aren’t overmilked, which can occur in long parlours fitted with many units, or if the milker were to step out of the parlour for a minute to feed calves, draft a cow, etc. The vacuum on the cluster kicks in when the cluster weight is lifted off the ACR rope, with the vacuum cutting off at the end of the cow based on milk flow through the cluster.

A simple drafting gate solution. This manual drafting gate has haybob tines keeping it in normal position and the operator pulls a rope to draft a cow (left of gate).

Backing gate

The goal for milking should be that from the moment you step into the parlour pit, you shouldn’t have to leave for any reason.

Backing gates prevent the milker from having to leave to draft cows at the back of the collection yard into the parlour. They are more suited to larger herds operating bigger collection yards. Backing gates can be automatically or manually operated, with electrical or hydraulic options also available.

Safety features on backing gates prevent cows being overly pressured or crushed, with sensitivity sensors fitted.


Drafting cows for breeding, treatments etc, is a difficult task where poor handling facilities are in place, as well as resulting in the milker having to leave the pit or all cows having to be held until the end of milking and then having to be drafted.

A farmer will spend anywhere between two to four hours in the parlour pit. An investment in parlour pit mats will add cushioning and reduce pressure on joints.

Like parlours, drafting gates can be rudimentary or highly technical. A simple rope pulley to swing a gate across as a cow is entering the parlour will suffice, while some farmers using cow collars for heat detection are now incorporating auto drafting units, where cows are drafted at the touch of the button.

Parlour mats

While not necessarily a labour savour, parlour mats are a good addition to any parlour. As you will be standing for two to four hours per day, a cushioning underfoot will have long-term benefits with regards to pressure to knee and hip joints.

Disused cubicle mats will suffice, although specially designed parlour mats are available. Some farmers have also opted to use a plastic sheep/calf slat underfoot, keeping the parlour pit clean while giving a spring underfoot.