Milk is a natural food source provided by and for mammals that is necessary for growth. There’s currently a large debate over if dairy milk is really beneficial to humans or if alternatives like soy, almond, or oat milk are just as helpful. The truth is: milk has nine essential nutrients and vitamins that strengthen our immune system and improve our health that other milk alternatives can't beat. Drinking just 8-ounces of milk a day provides your body with the same amount of vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus received from healthy foods like salmon, broccoli, and bananas. Milk is proven to enhance vitamin levels, improve weight loss and muscle mass, lower disease rates, strengthen bones, and overall improve health. Dairy alternatives do have benefits as well as high vitamin and protein levels similar to dairy milk. However, there are added sugars and many of the vitamins are also added (not naturally appearing in the milk). The truth is, dairy milk has natural, high-quality protein, vitamins, and nutrients that are tough to copy. There is a place for milk alternatives and it is important to have choices but the trend that milk is bad just isn’t true. It’s been proven time and time again that dairy milk is great for growth and health. But how is all of this milk produced?
Dairy cows have been being raised for milk production for thousands of years and, as times have evolved, milking processes have too. Milking machines and parlors have been around since the early 1900s and were invented to improve milking rates by increasing milk intake and lowering time spent milking. A milking parlor is a separate room or building where dairy cattle are taken for milking. There are many different types of milking parlors but there are four most common, modern forms. These parlors are parallel, tandem, herringbone, and rotary.
Parallel parlors are where the cows stand parallel to each other (see image). In this parlor position, dairy cattle’s udders can only be reached through the rear end and milking can’t begin until all cows are in their stalls. As the front quarters of the cattle aren’t visible in this parlor, sanitation and unit attachment can become more difficult. However, the walking distance between each stall is much shorter than other parlor types and can save more time. The exit procedures in parallel parlors are also more efficient due to dual return lanes.
Tandem parlors require dairy cattle to stand nose-to-tail, allowing the farmer to milk the cattle from the side rather than from behind. This parlor type allows cows to be released individually, ensuring no hold-ups when waiting for a cow with slower milking rates. It’s recommended that tandem parlors are used in farms that pay close attention to each cow but can often be inconvenient for large herds. When milking or attaching milking machines by hand, it can take an excessive amount of time to walk from stall to stall throughout the parlor. With changing technology, automated milking attachments and machines can make it more manageable, but this parlor form isn’t as easy to expand as others.
Herringbone parlors are the most common form of parlors for farms with smaller herds. This parlor type requires the cows to stand at a 45-degree angle, giving the milker a wider variety of access points. Unlike tandem parlors, cattle in herringbone parlors aren’t released individually, meaning it can take longer with cows who milk slower. However, herringbone parlors often have rapid exit stalls due to return lanes, making the exit process much more efficient. While this parlor type works great for smaller herds, larger herds in this parlor can be difficult to keep track of.
Rotary parlors seem slightly more complex but are actually the easiest way to milk a herd. It’s similar to a merry-go-round – as the cows load into their stalls shaped in a circle, the platform slowly rotates, allowing farmers to stay in one place rather than walking from stall to stall. Despite a more organized form, rotary parlors also require more operators in order to function efficiently and aren’t easily expandable. It’s found that rotary parlors work best with larger herds of around 1,000 but, like parallel parlors, are slightly more difficult to sanitize and attach machines as well as pay special attention to particular cows.
Dairy parlors are extremely beneficial for farmers as it improves efficiency, productivity, and profit. While it may come as a shock to some, parlors are also exceptionally helpful for the cattle as well. Efficiently run parlors can lead to a calming environment for dairy cows, causing better milk flow. The use of parlors also helps manage pathogens and ensure better health for the cows. When dairy parlors are run smoothly, it can benefit the cattle, farmers, and milk. Having healthy, natural milk allows us to remain healthy, happy, and strong.