Milking Management: Consistency is the Key!
Published on Wed, 09/18/2019 - 9:59am
Milking Management: Consistency is the Key!
The secrets of producing high quality milk is to consistently use a well-defined milking technique and to maintain a clean and dry environment for all animals.
The main goal of today’s dairy producer is to produce high quality milk in the most efficient way possible. Producers of high quality milk know that it is important to have a consistent method for milking preparation and unit attachment. The objective of milking management is to ensure that units are applied to visibly clean, well stimulated teats, milk is rapidly and efficiently harvested, and milking units are removed when milking is complete. A number of milking routines are used on dairy farms, but no single milking practice will independently result in improved milk quality in the face of overwhelming exposure to mastitis pathogens. The secret of producing high quality milk is to consistently use a well-defined milking technique by all on the farm that helps to reduce pathogen exposure and to maintain a clean and dry environment for all animals on the farm.
Let’s first talk about pre-dip. Have you read the label? Are you using a brand that has research behind it? Typically you get what you pay for; cheap pre-dips don’t always have a thorough bacteria kill. It is important to use a pre-dip that has research to back up the claims behind it and also read the label so you allow proper contact/kill time. Most pre-dips have kill times that range from 15 to 30 seconds, it is important to allow the pre dip on the teat long enough to kill bacteria. Cows should also be clean before pre-dipping them. Dirt and manure neutralize pre-dip; each time manure or dirt enters the reservoir that holds the dip, the killing effect is lowered, essentially making the pre-dip a bacteria “soup.” Coverage with pre-dip should also be considered; teats should be covered ¾ up the teat and the entire way around with dip.
Fore-stripping is another important factor when looking at overall milking management. This step can either follow pre-dipping or come before, whichever is the farm’s preference, but it is important that every person is consistent throughout. Fore stripping should be applied to all milking routines and is a fundamental practice that can help to greatly increase milk quality. The examination of milk before unit attachment is necessary to ensure abnormal milk is not introduced to the bulk tank and also to identify clinical cases of mastitis at an early stage. Fore stripping is adequately performed when 2 to 3 streams of milk are expressed in a vigorous manner. It is best to fore strip before the teat end has been disinfected to reduce the risk of recontamination of the teat end. One important factor when fore stripping is the use of a strip cup. The strip cup is important to help reduce the chance of spreading contagious mastitis. The practice of using a strip cup is extremely important in tie stall housing. Bacteria can easily be spread through a tie stall barn when milk is being expelled onto the bedding where a cow will lay or you can carry on your shoes to the next cow. The use of latex gloves by all milking staff is also recommended to reduce the potential spread of mastitis pathogens by contaminated hands.
The third step of all milking practices should include drying or wiping. A clean dry teat is important. After the drying process, the teat should be the cleanest it will become and nothing should touch that teat except the inside of the milking inflation. After you wipe a cow, the milking unit should be attached immediately to reduce the risk of re-contamination. When drying each cow it is important to use as many towels as needed to wipe the sides and bottom of each teat. Before the unit is attached use your thumb and towel to massage the teat end; this practice will ensure that they are clean.
Milking in a tie stall facility sometimes makes it difficult to achieve the proper lag time. Teat end health and incidence of mastitis is greatly dependent on proper timing from first stimulation until unit attachment. It is important to allow a lag time of 60 to 90 seconds for each cow. This allows oxytocin release and milk let down to occur before attaching the unit. If the unit is attached before 60 seconds or after 90 seconds, oxytocin is not present and the unit will manually stimulate the teat causing hyperkeratosis or teat end lesions, which will increase the incidence of mastitis.
Removing the unit in a timely manner is also important to reducing teat end damage. An average unit on time for a high producing dairy cow is between 3 and 5 minutes. With proper stimulation this can easily be achieved. Following unit removal, it is recommended to use a post-dip that contains a barrier. Cows should remain standing for 30 minutes after milking to allow the post-dip to dry and reduce any bacteria from entering the open teat end.
Implementation of standard milking practices requires frequent training of all employees. Having proper training can be linked to increased milking speed and decrease of clinical mastitis. Successful milking routines are dependent on the ability to clearly communicate practices and to motivate milking personnel to apply them consistently. The consistent implementation of standardized milking practices such as fore stripping, the use of single towels to dry teats, and well defined milking routines are essential to producing high quality milk.