More than 60pc of dairy farmers surveyed by the Farming Independent at the Ploughing Championships recently said they intended to increase milk production after quotas are abolished in 2015.
Almost half of the 212 farmers questioned intend to expand by up to 20pc, while a further 39pc intend to increase milk production by 21-50pc.
Some 11pc of those surveyed intend to increase milk output by 51-100pc.
Many farmers intending to expand will now be assessing their farm infrastructure in order to make sure they can cope with higher cow numbers and milk production.
Teagasc dairy expert John Donworth and farm buildings guru Tom Ryan have compiled some useful advice for farmers who want to assess their milking parlours in the Teagasc dairy manual.
Writing about milking facilities, the pair advise expanding dairy farmers to assess their current milking facility.
"An existing parlour may have potential for expansion but a parlour in poor condition might need to be replaced," says Tom Ryan.
He highlights the following situations where a new milking parlour could be a more economic and productive solution than an extension of an existing parlour:
Structure and roof are not in good condition.
A loft with low ceiling makes the parlour dark and unattractive to cows.
The pit is shallow - forcing the milker to stoop.
The fall in the pit is not equal to the fall in the milk line.
Incorrect slopes or dips in milk lines can lead to more mastitis, raised cell count and slow milking, all of which can cause poor hygiene and rinse-water drainage problems.
The milking machine is more than 20 years old.
Concrete floors are worn and rails are unsteady or badly designed.
There is an antiquated (or no) in-parlour feeding system.
The pump and motor are located in the dairy, the dairy and bulk tank are too small, and the compressor is out of date or undersized.
The parlour is too narrow.
How many units?
Increasing the number of units will reduce overall milking time, while increasing individual row time.
Individual row time is influenced by pre-milking routine and stage of lactation, which influences the degree of over-milking cows are exposed to.
A single operator can handle 14 units where cows are prepared and up to 22 where no preparation takes place.
Aim for one unit per 7-9 cows, with the aim of having no more than nine rows of cows to be milked. For example, 120 cows would require around 16 units.
For larger herds of 150 cows or more, farmers should consider a rotary parlour or a long herringbone operated by two milkers.