Would you like to decrease somatic cell count (SCC)? Would you like to increase milk flow rate and shorten milking time while improving teat end health? The moneymaker on a dairy farm production of large quantities of high quality milk. So, why is milk prep of your cows often a forgotten priority?
To quickly assess your farm’s milking procedure, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are all milking employees trained in the prep procedure established for your farm?
- Proper milk prep increases milk flow rate considerably. Improving the milk prep procedure can speed up milking times by up to 20% while also improving teat end health.
- How often do you, as a manager, evaluate what’s happening in the parlor? Many successful producers would argue that spending at least a few minutes every day in the parlor communicating with employees is among the most profitable and productive time spent managing the dairy farm.
- Are cows stimulated for at least 20 seconds?
- At least 20 seconds of rubbing and/or cleaning is needed to trigger oxytocin, which stimulates milk let down. Let the cow give you the milk instead of taking it. Without this stimulation, milk can be harvested from the udder but requires longer milking times and may harm udder tissues and teat ends.
- Is teat dip left on the teat for at least 20-30 seconds before wiping the teat end dry?
- A minimum of 20-30 seconds is needed to kill bacteria on the teat surface
- Is an effort made to clean and dry the teat end specifically?
- If unsure, have employees prep the cows normally. Then swab the teat end with an alcohol pad. Is there dirt or dip left on the pad?
- Is machine attachment occurring within 60-90 seconds after teat stimulation begins?
- Oxytocin has a short-lived effect; waiting too long to attach the milking machine after stimulation simple wastes its effect.
- How often are employees retrained?
- Refresher courses for employees can help maintain high milk prep standards. Make sure employees on all shifts are trained in the established procedure.
- Is there a written standard operating procedure for milking preparation posted in the parlor?
- Proper milk prep is one area of management that will pay off handsomely with very little cost. Quicker milking times, lower somatic cell counts and improved teat end health are all dividends of proper milk prep.
- Lastly, a focus on fore-milk stripping, which is the practice of removing two to three squirts of milk from each quarter during the milk prep process. Fore-milk stripping should not be omitted because it serves several important purposes.
- The cisternal milk, or milk residing in the lower portion of the teat prior to milking, often has a higher bacterial count. Eliminating this milk in two to three squirts of fore-stripping may improve bulk tank SCC and overall milk quality.
- Fore-stripping serves as additional stimulation to improve milk let-down and flow rate.
- Fore-stripping can allow a quick check for signs of clinical mastitis.
Research shows that fore-milk stripping is a proven management practice that serves several purposes, all of which lead to increased milk quality and therefore income.
For additional information on milking procedures, the National Mastitic Council has excellent resources