Parlor Folies In tough times, keep your parlor humming

January 14, 2009 06:00 PM
 

Regularly scheduled parlor
maintenance costs about
7.5¢/cow/day for parts and labor in a double-30 parallel.
When milk prices plummet and margins shrivel, producers look to cut costs in whatever area they can.

Your milking parlor, however, shouldn't be one of them. Cutting back on scheduled maintenance is done at your herd's peril, says Dave Reid, a dairy veterinarian and parlor troubleshooter for BouMatic.

"Rule No. 1 is always do what's best for the cow,” Reid says. Cutting back on routine parlor maintenance violates that rule.

Reid spoke at Dairy Today's 2008 Elite Producer Business Conference in Las Vegas this past November. In his presentation, he used a double-30 parlor milking 2,300 cows 3X.

He estimated that a regularly scheduled, full-maintenance program for a parlor of that size would cost $44,000 annually for parts, or $63,000 annually for parts and labor combined. Both are big numbers, especially when milk prices turn south.

But consider what your parlor is doing each day. A double-30 parlor that milks 2,300 cows 3X is actually milking 6,900 cows daily. If you divide that total number of cows milked daily by the number of units (60) in the parlor, that means each unit is milking 115 cows per day. If two pulsators malfunction because of a lack of maintenance, 230 cows are put at risk. In other words, 10% of the herd is put at risk each day that two pulsators fail to function properly.

That $44,000 cost of annual parts breaks down to $121 per day. The $63,000 annual parts and labor cost breaks down to $173 per day. So the daily cost of parts works out to roughly a nickel per cow per day, and parts plus labor adds up to 7.5¢/day. Even at $14/cwt. milk, that's still roughly equivalent to just one-half pound of milk per cow per day.

In that context, parlor maintenance becomes a bargain in keeping the parlor humming, cows healthy and your lender happy, Reid says.

—Jim Dickrell

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