Thinking Clean While Milking

3/9/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

EAST EARL, Pa. — For David Reid, a dairy consultant with Rocky Ridge Dairy Consulting LLC of Wisconsin, “it’s all about clean.” There is no magic bullet to high milk quality. It’s paying attention to the everyday details that can have the biggest impact.

“It’s a commitment of management,” he said, “Maintenance programs, innovation and investment are required to be competitive in the dairy industry.”

Reid spoke at the Ag Vets Dairy Meeting Feb. 28 at Shady Maple Restaurant. Weaving humor into his talk, he used photos taken in barns and milking parlors to point out common mistakes.

Mastitis can be very expensive. Treated milk, medicine and lost production are just a couple of costs tied into a mastitis outbreak.

Reid talked about what good “milkablity,” or good milk procedures, should be followed, such as correct cow stimulation, a properly attached milker and calm cows.

Most improvements are not expensive, he said. Time is the main cost — observing procedures, looking at facilities from the herd’s point of view and noting areas for improvement.

Some corrections are as simple as shortening milk hoses to fit properly and encourage milk flow.

“Most (farmers) need to invest in better maintenance,” Reid said.

Milking inflations should be replaced between 1,000 and 1,200 milkings, which works out to about once a month to six weeks, depending on the size of the herd and parlor size.

Reid said most farms fail to keep a regular maintenance schedule. The same can be said for rubber hoses.

Older hoses and inflations can become cracked, leaving places for bacteria to hide.

Looking at the cow side, he asked farmers what their milking procedures are like. Does every milker follow the same procedure or do some have bad habits? he asked.

Cows like consistency, he said.

The milkers should be getting cow teat ends clean. How clean is the milking area and udder prep supplies? he asked.

“The goal is to always think clean during milking,” he said.

The difference between high somatic-cell-count herds and low herds is management attitude, he believes.

Udder health is a team effort with the farmer, veterinarian, outside advisers and herd manager working together. These farms have milk quality goals and everyone knows what the goals are.

Reid asked audience members if they know who their high count cows are and what are they going to do about them.

“Use records to identify these cows,” he said.

He suggested documenting the differences between the milking crews by hanging milk filter, posting milking time and milk produced by each crew to see the differences between each shift.

Milk quality also happens outside the milking parlor. Cows need to be housed in a clean environment, and bedding should be managed to keep the cows comfortable and clean.

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