While it’s tempting to forego forestripping in your milking routine to save time and effort, forestripping offers multiple benefits to the cow and, ultimately, to your bottom line. “Stripping the first three to five streams of milk prior to unit attachment serves three important purposes,” says Valerie Ryman, a dairy Extension specialist with the University of Georgia.
1. It stimulates the teat for proper complete milk let down. “Teat stimulation for 10 to 15 seconds sends nerve impulses to the brain,” she says. This leads to the release of oxytocin through the bloodstream and into the udder, which initiates milk let down. “Though inadequate teat stimulation does not necessarily decrease total milk yield, milk flow will be reduced or interrupted, resulting in longer milking times,” Ryman says. While other methods of stimulation are used, such as dry wiping or mechanical brush stimulation, forestripping best mimics the calf suckling, she says.
2. Forestripping removes the highest bacterial and somatic cell count (SCC) milk. “Even in healthy, nonmastitic animals, hundreds to thousands of somatic cells can be concentrated in this small volume of [forestripped] milk,” Ryman says. “One study reported an 80% decrease from foremilk compared to milk collected after milk let down … the SCC of foremilk represented 20% of the total SCC of milk.” If your average cell count is 250,000 cell/ml, removing the foremilk could reduce overall SCC to 200,000 cells/ml or below.
3. Forestripping helps milkers identify clinical mastitis and abnormalities in the teat and udder. “Assessing foremilk for signs of mastitis will prevent delayed antibiotic treatment, allow for quicker culture for mastitis-causing pathogens, or enable more rapid management decisions,” Ryman says. A delay can put off recovery and impair production. Ryman recommends forestripping on clean teats prior to predipping with a germicidal teat dip. “Though predipping can be done before forestripping, it is not advised because even gloved hands may be contaminated with mastitis-causing bacteria,” she says. Besides, forestripping prior to predipping means the milker can prep in back-to-back steps, and doesn’t have to leave time for the teat dip to kill bacteria.
Note: This story appears in the February 2018 magazine issue of Dairy Herd Management.