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Proper Milking Procedures

Proper Milking Procedures
By Greg Strait
In the dairy industry today, when we hear the phrase “proper milking procedures,” how many of us can accurately define what that really means? When do proper procedures begin during the milking process? When do they end? These are questions that Extension Educators can help producers of all sizes with. There are individualized on-farm visits as well as group meetings across the state available to address these issues. Educators discuss proper procedures regardless of the style of the milking facility. Recommendations are given to producers operating in a tie stall barn with bucket milkers or pipeline systems to those in new state of the art parlors.
Proper milking procedures begin when animals are being brought into the stall, whether that means an individual stall or a parlor “stall.” Make sure that all animals are moved in a calm manor. Do not force or scare the animal in order to get her to move. When animals are even slightly startled during this process, this creates a negative effect on milk let-down. Startling or upsetting experiences that happen 30 minutes prior to milking can lead to a negative effect on milk let-down. It is important for all milking animals to remain as calm as possible prior to milking.
As soon as the first manipulation of the teat happens, the lag time begins. This step is also considered to be the start of the prepping procedure. The first teat manipulation can be the result of various steps depending on the operations, it can include placement of the dip cup around the teat, dry wiping, or teat stripping. For those operations using pre-dips, previous farm visits have shown that many dairymen/dairywomen are not allowing the pre-dip to have adequate contact with the teat. Most dips have a contact time of 15-30 seconds. Make sure that dip coverage is a MINIMUM 3/4 up teat and completely around teat. Refer to the label instructions for the correct contact time for the product that is being used.
Photo Credits: Amber Yutzy and Greg Strait
Regardless of the initial stimulation, one of the most important milking steps is stripping of the fore milk. This milk is the highest somatic cell milk and needs stripped out prior to milking unit attachment. Stripping onto tie stall beds or other bedding surfaces is highly discouraged. Milk that is high in contagious bacteria can easily be spread to neighboring animals. Stripping into a strip cup is the preferred procedure to eliminate cross contamination of any potential bacteria and to also give milkers a clear visual of the milk to diagnose any clinical signs of mastitis or other abnormalities. This is also good practice for farms that are using a CMT paddle to detect any subclinical mastitis cases. A conscious decision can then be made as to put the milk in the tank or discard.
Prior to the attachment of the milking unit, drying the teat is a very important step in the process. Make sure all teats are clean including the end of the teat. To determine teat end cleanliness, use an alcohol swab and swipe across the end of the teat after the entire prepping procedure is completed. This is an excellent test to determine how well you are cleaning teat ends. Many dairymen/dairywomen or children do a very good job with the teat but forget the teat end/opening.
Photo Credits: Amber Yutzy and Greg Strait
After drying the teat, the teat is now as clean as it will be during the entire procedure and the milking unit should be applied immediately following this step. If milking in a tie stall set-up with bucket milkers, dry teats as the unit arrives at the stall.
Photo Credits: Amber Yutzy and Greg Strait
One of the most important components to milking procedures is time. Time of pre-dip on the teat, timing from initial stimulation to unit attachment, timing of letdown, and total time milking. The total time from first stimulation until unit attachment needs to be 60-90 seconds. With Best Milking Procedures in place, your unit on time will be on average 4 1/2 – 5 minutes until complete milk out. Producers can test themselves by using a stopwatch during milking. Timing is very crucial to proper milking procedures. If unit on-times are too long, this could be creating additional problems that will last the lifetime of your cows. Penn State Extension Milk Quality Educators have the tools (VADIA’s) to test your milking procedures and the efficiency of your management practices.
Post dipping is also an important part of the milking procedure. Be sure to use a post dip immediately after unit removal. Post dip is very important as it provides a barrier of protection to aid in reducing the spread of organisms. Many dips are available but using a research-based product with proven results is important. Post dip is important to use regardless of the of conditions of facilities or weather conditions. If weather conditions are well below freezing, teat ends can be blotted dry after the dip has been applied. However, it is very important to apply dip to gain this barrier of protection.
Are you following proper milking procedures? How do you measure up? There is a great way to see how you are performing. One telltale sign of proper procedures being followed is the strip yield test. This is a very simple test you can do using a measuring cup that holds at least 1 cup. Once milking units are removed, begin stripping into the measuring cup. If quarters are properly milked out, you have 2 ounces of milk remaining in each quarter. Yes, there should be a small amount of milk left in each quarter following milking. Stripping all 4 quarters should result in 8 ounces of milk in your measuring cup. If you have more or less than 2 ounces per quarter, you need to make an adjustment somewhere in your milking procedure.
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