Milk quality does count. When dairies consistently achieve production of low somatic cell count (SCC)  and low bacteria count milk, everyone wins — the cow, the dairy, the processor, and the consumer, says Jeffrey Reneau, University of Minnesota extension dairy management specialist. “Since low SCC cows also produce milk more efficiently, the environment wins too.”

Is it worth the time, effort, and cost to achieve a low bulk tank SCC? “My answer is that you can’t afford not to and what's more, some best management practices are cost neutral,” he insists. 

For example, proper teat dipping takes no more time or product to achieve complete teat coverage than to do a sloppy job.

How much increased cost is added by using a proper milking routine? Every study of milking routines in the last 20 years indicates that to achieve optimal milk let-down across all stages of lactation and to minimize machine-on time requires at least 10 to 20 seconds of quality teat massage (cleaning) and a 60 to 120 second pre-lag time (the time between first initiating teat massage and milking machine attachment). 

“Our experience shows that many dairies struggling with high SCC are spending only 5 to 10 seconds average on pre-milking prep time,” says Reneau. This is neither enough to assure consistent teat sanitation or optimal milk let-down response. 

Based on cow prep studies, adding just 10 seconds more time cleaning teat surfaces during cow prep for each cow improves the quality of the milk let-down stimulus, resulting in increased milk flow rates, reduced machine-on time, and will not slow down milking time at all. Furthermore, shorter machine-on time improves teat end health and reduces the time that machine induced new infections can occur. 

Another low input cost management practice is removing udder hair by singeing, which helps to keep udders cleaner and improves the effectiveness of pre-milking cow prep.

“Cost control always counts in good or bad economic times but during hard times, we seem to focus on it even more and sometimes to a fault,” says Reneau. “In general, we should never cut inputs that may compromise animal health and well-being or milk quality.”

Source: University of Minnesota