Consistency in udder prep is one of the challenges that dairy farmers face with their employees, especially in large dairies where most of the work force is hired. Udder prep consistency is the key factor for quality milk production and it is beneficial for the milker, for the cow and for the dairy. Since milkers are expected to be responsible for completing all of the tasks in the parlor, it’s important that each milker understands and follows the milking procedure and preps udders adequately every milking.

Beneficial for the cows.

Consistent udder prep improves cow-flow through the parlor. Cows move voluntarily and more relaxed when they follow the same routine each time they are milked. According to University of Wisconsin research, cows milked with a consistent udder-prep procedure maximized the voluntary milk letdown and had higher-milking rates, less residual milk and more milk per cow. This is reflected in lower somatic cell counts and higher milk-quality premiums.

Beneficial for the milkers.

Consistent udder prep helps milkers understand what is expected of them — each shift, each cow. It will save the milkers time. They can accomplish other tasks in the parlor rather than  walking to the holding area to force cows to enter in the parlor. This will reduce stress levels in the parlor, and milkers can feel they are moving at the right pace in order to finish their tasks on time.

Beneficial for the dairy.

Consistent udder prep is economically beneficial to the dairy in terms of improved udder health, lower somatic-cell counts, maximum milk harvested per cow and the efficient use of the parlor. All of these translate into more dollars.   

It’s important to do a complete analysis of your current milking procedure before you make any changes.   To have a consistent udder-prep routine, milking procedure should be developed as a team — not only by the managers, but also with the milkers’ participation because milkers will be responsible for the success or failure of the protocols. The procedures should be practical and every milker must understand them.  In my experience, when udder-prep procedures are designed with no input from the milkers, consistency is gained only when the managers are present in the parlor.

Segundo Gonzalez is a dairy consultant specializing in on-farm training of Hispanic workers in the Upper Midwest.  He can be reached at (301) 222-7228or at

Benefits the consumer

When working on a dairy, we are not just taking care of cows — “we are making a food product for consumers,” points out Jim Reynolds, of the Veterinary Medicine Research and Teaching Center in Tulare, Calif. Milk from clean, healthy cows — with low bacteria and somatic cell counts — will last longer in the grocery store and have a good taste to it.