Milking calm cows, with clean, dry and well-stimulated teats — in a consistent manner — makes milking easier, improves the quality of milk and reduces the incidence of mastitis at the dairy. It is important that each dairy establishes a simple milking procedure for its employees. There is no “standard” milking procedure for all dairies, but a procedure developed by any particular farm must be followed consistently in every single milking. The basic principles for milking can be summarized as follows:

Observations prior to milking
Identify the cow you will milk and check her for any visual signs of mastitis, such as quarters that are swollen or reddened. Make sure the teats are clean.

First of all, wear clean milking gloves. Squeeze the bottom part of each teat to get two or three squirts of milk to come out. Direct the milk to a special “strip cup” rather than the floor. Observe the milk for abnormalities. This will help you spot cows with special mastitis problems. The cows receive stimulation from having your fingers squeeze their teats, and that improves milk letdown when the milking machines go on.

Pre-dip using a disinfectant
Pre-dipping eliminates bacteria from the skin of the teats. Dip each teat completely and allow the disinfectant to work for 30 seconds on the teat surface.

Dry off the teats
This is important for a couple of reasons: The teat tip helps dissolve and kill the bacteria, making it easier to come off. But you need to complete the teat-dipping procedure with a clean towel. It’s just like washing your hands — if you don’t wipe your hands off with a clean towel, the dirt just stays on there. You want the teats clean and dry before attaching the milking machine.

Placing of the milking units
The time for placing the milking unit needs to be between 60 to 90 seconds after the first handling of the teats. Place the unit on quickly and minimize air entry into the cups.

Adjustment of the milking unit
Adjust the unit to avoid slipping, especially at the end of milking. Assure proper air entry into the cluster/receiver and that milk is flowing properly
inside it.

Seal the teats once the milking unit has been removed using a post-dip solution. Cover the teats completely, and use clean dipping cups and new dipping solution at the beginning of each milking shift.

Following the established milking procedure and routine on a consistent basis helps to assure cleaner milk and maximum milk production. The milking operation needs to be constantly evaluated. That way, if any employees deviate from the established milking procedure, the manager can talk to them and provide additional training. 
Segundo Gonzalez is a dairy consultant specializing in on-farm training of Hispanic workers in the Upper Midwest. He can be reached at (301) 222-7228 or at

Benefits the farm

When a cow’s teats are kept clean and dry—right before the milking machine goes on—there is less bacteria that can work its way up into the teat canals and cause infection. Healthy cows produce more milk, generating more money for the farm. And, some farms receive a bonus payment for having milk with low bacteria and somatic cell counts, because the milk helps produce a lot of cheese or good-tasting milk.