When it comes to milk quality, many dairy herds emphasize premilking protocols, such as application of germicides, teat stimulation and drying of teats. This emphasis is warranted, many standard preparation practices help reduce mastitis and improve milking efficiency. But what about after milking care? Here are a couple points to consider involving equipment protocols as well as the humanside of postmilking.
1. Postmilking teat dip
This is one of the most important practices of a sound milking protocol. Every milking quarter of every cow should be dipped immediately after milking. Teats should be completely covered. This is more difficult with sprayers rather than dip cups. Teat dip cups must be free of organic matter.
Recently, there were several herds in Michigan that experienced increases in mastitis, in part caused by either improper formulation of the teat dip (separate components such as germicide and activator did not fully mix into a homogeneous solution) or a failure of the pump system that titrates each component into the formulation for the final compounded dip. In these herds, milking personnel noted an “off color” or unusual viscosity relative to the normal dip after application on the cow’s teats. In some cases, this resulted in ulcers and reddening of the skin. One herd stated that although the two dip components were supposed to be mixed at a 1:1 ratio, one of the barrels was emptying four times faster than the other.
Each time you start the use of a new barrel or container of a dip component, mark the volume level of solution and date on the barrel. Follow consumption of that and any other component containers regularly to ensure the respective flow rates are what is expected according to the labeled ratio of the final product. For example, a 1:1 ratio in the final product implies equal consumption of each component and thus equal decrease in volume in each container. This might be complicated for products that additionally require mixture of water into the formulation.
2. Automated detachers
This equipment prevents overmilking of cows. This leads to poor teat health and increased risk for mastitis. Cows should not be milked dry, a cup of milk should be easily hand stripped after milking. Overmilking negatively affects teat health and reduces parlor flow. This decreases parlor turnover rate and most importantly, increases time in the holding pen and parlor when cows could be laying down or eating.
Automatic detachers should be evaluated regularly, as with other milking equipment, and milkers should be reminded to rely on automatic removal of milking units and to set units to manual only for select cows, such as after a unit is kicked off. Conversely, if the automatic detachers are not maintained, milkers might resort to more frequent use of manual removal of units.
Milkers should consistently apply germicide after milking, and if equipment is used to mix teat dip formulations, ensure the mixing equipment is functioning and calibrated properly. Automatic detachers should be maintained to ensure timely removal after milking and to decrease the frequency of manual take off of units.
Ron Erskine is currently on faculty at Michigan State University and serves as a professor and dairy Extension veterinarian in the College of Veterinary Medicine. His research focuses on bovine infectious disease, especially in mastitis and milk quality.
Note: This story appeared in the November issue of Dairy Herd Management.