Skip to main content

The Rotary Revolution

21 October 2020

The Rotary dairy parlor dates back to 1913 when Henry W. Jeffers first conceived the idea for the Rotolactor. The project was tabled for World War I but development resumed in 1928 when the Borden Company agreed to back it. It was finally unveiled on November 13, 1930. This bovine merry-go-round could wash and milk 50 cows in twelve and a half minutes.

Operating in Plainsboro, New Jersey, it was quite the novelty and attracted crowds of curious farmers and tourists. It was even displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Jeffers and others were obviously on to something but the concept never truly caught on. The early 1970s saw a re-emergence of the concept and for a few brief years, manufacturers began focusing their efforts to produce and sell efficient rotary parlors. Most of the rotaries built in the ’70s were small, 12 to 17 stalls, mainly because herd sizes were small at the time.

A handful of those early '70s rotaries are still in use today but manufacturers did not stay engaged with the concept for long. One of the biggest hurdles they faced, and the reason most of them stopped making rotaries, was reliability. The materials and technology available at the time didn’t make it easy to make equipment that turned all day, every day for years without wearing out or breaking down. And the small rotaries really didn’t create any significant labor efficiencies when compared to similarly-sized herringbone or parallel parlors.

There were merits to this idea but no one could implement it in a way that exploited those merits to the fullest. The modern rotary emerged in the 1990s as materials and technology began to catch up to the concept. Fast forward to the mid-2000s when herd sizes were growing and dairymen were noodling over ways to make the rotary successful. That’s when Green Source Automation was born out of conversations with some of those dairymen. Industry consolidation over the last fifteen years has led to even more growth in herd sizes and as GSA’s technologies have advanced we are finally seeing the real genius of the rotary revolution.

What makes a rotary parlor superior? Conceptually it’s all about the high implied throughput afforded by continuous-flow production. And to maximize that throughput you have to start thinking about Total Quality Management (TQM). TQM seeks to promote consistent quality by identifying key steps in the manufacturing process and then formulating those steps in a routine that's highly repeatable. A rotary dairy conforms to this concept because it requires a worker to stand in a particular area - much like an assembly-line worker - and perform the same task every time a cow passes by.

Turn that worker into a Robot and you not only gain labor savings but you have a high-quality industrial machine with utterly perfect consistency.

As a new rotary age was rising over the last 10-15 years it became apparent that efficiencies from a rotary depend, in large part, upon the pre-milking hygiene practiced by the dairy. If the dairy has a minimal routine, there may be labor savings. If the dairy has an extensive routine, it seemed that those savings wouldn’t be as great. There were also concerns that streamlining the udder prep procedure could cause problems because you may be eliminating a vital component of udder health and cleanliness.

Enter the RotaryMATE EXPS. GSA has really revolutionized the rotary with this new dairy robot. The EXPS automates teat cleaning, teat sanitizing, and teat stimulation and it is now working at speeds as fast as 4.4 seconds per stall. All the concerns about achieving peak efficiencies while creating labor savings and promoting cow health have been addressed and we are now seeing just how important the consistency provided by these rotary robots is for the health and well-being of the cows. All that consistency is also leading to higher quality milk.

It’s taken over 100 years for this revolution to get rolling but it’s going to be all downhill from here. Average herd sizes continue to grow which means dairy farmers need to find more ways to create labor savings while maintaining the consistent quality TQM strives toward. Green Source Automation is committed to advancing the technology and we continue to partner with dairy farmers to break new ground in speeds and efficiencies.

Henry Jeffers might be amazed to see how far his little idea has come but he’d probably smile and say “I told you so.”

Prepare for Automation

Build your new rotary milking parlor with dairy automation in mind. Green Source engineers will work with you at no charge to ensure that your new rotary is built for the future of the dairy industry.

Contact Green Source Automation for a free consultation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 209-531-9163.