Milking efficiency is the percent of unit on-time (cluster
attached) that milk is flowing near maximum. If a milking unit is attached for
5 minutes during milking, and strong milk flow occurs for 4 minutes and 45
seconds, her milking efficiency is 95% (285/300 seconds). When milk isn’t
flowing while the unit is attached, it is not only inefficient, but more
importantly, it can lead to high vacuum on the teat, which damages teat tissue
and thus increases the risk of mastitis and decreases milk yield.
There are two major problems that lead to poor milking
efficiency: milking routines that resulted in delayed milk let down (bimodal
milk let down) and over milking. Either one of these problems can leave cows
‘high and dry’ for a period of time and expose teats to high vacuum levels.
Producers should set herd goals for milking efficiency to help increase
awareness of this concept for dairy farmers.
It is nearly impossible for a cow to be in full milk flow
100% of the time the cluster is attached. Often there is a slight delay in milk
flow after unit attachment. Plus, depending on the settings for terminal flow
and delay of the automatic take-offs, units will remain attached for brief
periods of low milk flow at the end of milking. Also, milk let down will vary
between cows despite consistent milking protocols. Thus, fresh cows, nervous
heifers, or cows in estrus might deviate from the average. Nonetheless, if
sound milking preparation is combined with timely cluster removal, most cows
will be exposed to only brief periods of high mouthpiece chamber vacuum (the
vacuum that surrounds the teat) during milking.
Milking efficiency is more than a number. More importantly,
it can help draw attention to possible opportunities to improve teat health,
mastitis control and milk production. The exposure of cows to bimodal milk let
down and over milking varies between herds. If milking efficiency is low
(<80%), this suggests milking practices, both before and at the end of
milking, as well as equipment function, should be reviewed and evaluated.
You don’t need milking analysis equipment to get an idea of
possible problems in milking dynamics. Simply watch milk flow into the cluster
after attachment, or look at teats for rings or discoloration after the units
come off. This is not unlike checking for the completeness of covering teats
with a germicide after milking.
Top herds achieve the ideal goal of machine milking—the
cluster is attached only while milk is flowing, which optimizes teat and udder
health as well as milk harvest. What are your milking goals?
Bactoscan failures arise from one of four main causes:
Contaminated Plant: if the plant is not being sufficiently
cleaned, then bacteria will survive between milking’s and begin to contaminate
milk from the next milking. ‘Just 5ml of milk residue (teaspoon) can contain
sufficient bacteria to cause a failure on thousands of litres of milk’ (Laven,
2016). This is the most common cause of bactoscan failures.
Mastitis: Mastitis, especially environmental pathogens is
the second most common cause of bactoscan failure. The presence of Strep Uberis
pathogens, even at a sub clinical level can cause cows to excrete large numbers
of bacteria, resulting in high bactoscan results.
Refrigeration Failure: if milk fails to cool quickly to
below 7˚c, it can cause bacteria within milk to multiply causing high bacterial
Environmental Bacteria: Bacteria from mud, manure, feed and
other sources can contaminate the teats. If teat preparation is not effective,
the risk of contamination during milking when the cluster is put on is very
1) Plant cleanliness:
a) Make sure that the tepid water rinse after milking
removes the majority of milk residues
b) The plant should be cleaned and disinfected after every
milking and the tank should be rinsed and cleaned after every collection. The
milk filter should be inspected and changed after every milking.
c) Ensure air lines are free from dust and milk-split liners
area common cause of milk in air lines.
d) Regular inspection of the plant is essential to ensure
there is no build-up of milk residues.
e) Check rubber wear regularly and replace it if it is
cracked or perished.
3) Milking routine
a) Wear rubber gloves and disinfect them regularly during
b) Ensure clusters which fall or are kicked off during
milking are clean before replacing.
c) Make sure units are placed on clean dry teats.
4) Bulk tank and Milking machine maintenance
a) Check that the temperature of the milk entering the tank
is no more than180C, and that of the milk in the tank is below 70C within three
hours of milking. This should be done at least 4 times per year
b) Maintain the milking machine in good working order.
Testing at least once per year is essential.
Bulk tank analysis is a useful tool for examining and
investigating the underlying causes of high SCC, mastitis incidence and milk
One of the most often ignored areas on a dairy farm is the
milking parlour. Even though it is used two or three times a day, it is often
assumed to be working properly and operated correctly. But it’s perilous to
think that as long as the motors run and milk flows through the pipeline,
everything is perfect. This may or may not be true. The two major problems with
milking systems are failing equipment and operator misuse.
The problems can occur at all times. The dairy farmer
increases his chances of lowering milk production and, ultimately, lowering
your income. Research shows a high link between the incidence of mastitis and
poorly functioning or poorly operated milking equipment. Mastitis is not a new
disease. It was documented and studied even before the milking machine were
invented. Because the dairy industry became more reliant on efficient milking
operations, the milking machine is now used on nearly every dairy farm in the UK.
In many cases, when a dairy herd’s incidence of mastitis increases, the first
area to be targeted is the milking equipment. The milking system can be
adjusted or adapted to function properly, but other factors can contribute to
The milking system is only as good as the person who
operates it. Even the best-designed system can perform poorly if operated
incorrectly. Likewise, an inadequate system can produce satisfactory results
with a skilled operator. A good combination of machine and operator means less
issues and more milk in the bulk tank.
The correct way to milk cows should begin even before the
milking unit is attached. Cows are creatures of habit. Handle cows in a
relaxed, expected routine to avoid as much stress as possible. In the UK, most
of the dairy cows are pastured. This means they must be rounded up before each
milking. Dairy cows should never be run or herded.
Dairy cows respond best to an easy routine of entering and
exiting the milking shed. A minimum of noise (such as yelling) and the absence
of sticks and whips are indications of well- trained cows being treated
properly. It is important for cows to be calm and undisturbed in the shed so
oxytocin (the milk “let down” hormone) can work effectively. Be cautious not to
subject cows to unnecessary stress. Any stress or pain experienced by the cow
immediately before or during milking will cause adrenalin to be released, which
interferes with the action of oxytocin. It is extremely important for operators
to understand this principle to avoid milk production losses.
Because milking facilities have different designs (such as number
of milking units, number of operators, use of automatic take-off, etc.), not
all farms use exactly the same milking routine. Regardless of differences, the
management program must include consistent milking times each day and the same
basic milking procedure used by all operators for all cows at all times.
Why does Milk quality matter beyond milk price. It can help
secure your milk market and bring more money back to your business by reducing
mastitis treatment costs and labour, along with milk withholding times. A
healthier udder can also produce more milk.
The first step in achieving milk quality success is to know
how your farm is performing. Appraise your milk quality goals. Ask yourself:
How are you doing at achieving them? Is what you are doing consistent? Do you
need to adapt your needs based on your herd’s performance?
If you don’t have goals, try to work with your team –
including dairy equipment dealer – to document them and share with your employees.
When you establish your milk quality goals, make sure they
are achievable. For example, if your intention is to try and reduce clinical
mastitis rate less than 1 percent, you need to understand the cost saving
reduced treatment savings and optimal milk production.
Having achievable goals is essential to understand your farm.
Milk quality key performance indicators
As you review or develop your milk quality goals, keep these
industry key performance indicators (key performance indicators) in mind:
Bulk tank SCC: Develop a goal that makes sense for you and
your farm, knowing the financial payback. A good goal to start with for bulk
tank SCC is under 200,000 cells per millilitre. Most herds today are trying for
less than 150,000.
Individual cow SCC: Track the percent of your herd under
200,000 cells per millilitre. Cows greater than 200,000 are considered sub
Percent clinical mastitis hospital cows: Less than 2 percent
is a good goal; less than 1 percent is elite. Remember, every cow you can
prevent from having a clinical case is saving you about £200.
Milking facility procedures: Define the milking routine
procedures to achieve consistency in:
1 Stimulation and cleaning of cows
2 Optimal prep lag times for proper stimulation and milk let-down
(goal: 90 to 120 seconds)
3 Unit alignments for proper milk harvest
4 Parlour cleaning protocols for hygienic milking
5 housing procedures for efficient cow flow to and from the
6 Clean stall beds and alleys
Once goals are reviewed or set, look at the key areas on
your dairy that impact milk quality. Spring weather is unpredictable and throws
a lot of inconsistencies our way. Which of these areas can you control to get
consistency? How can you adapt your protocols and practices to maintain
Key areas to evaluate
Consider all housing areas including cubicle, bedded,
calving pens, dry cows, heifer pens and pre-fresh pens. How clean and dry is
the environment? Bedding dryness can vary greatly with changing weather. What
are air quality and ventilation like? How clean are cows?
Your cows will tell you how comfortable they are in their
housing. Keep in mind, at least 12 to 14 hours per day of lying time is ideal.
Consider taking swabs of the beds, use this information to assess
the quality of bedding, watch and observe where the most prominent cows lie, if
mastitis is an issue try to monitor the area where it is coming from.
Controlling bacteria in bedding is critical for the
prevention of environmental mastitis. Keep bedding materials as dry as
possible. Remember, the more time there is between adding fresh bedding, the
higher the bacteria level. Well-maintained bedding can reduce bacteria
exposure, prevent udder infections and reduce SCC.
Milking procedures and equipment
How clean are cow teats? How much bedding is stuck to the
teats before udder prep? Are you using a pre-dip that kills your herd’s
mastitis-causing organisms? Are the parlour and milking equipment clean? Have
you cultured the udder towels? Are liner slips greater than 5 percent?
During milking, have a protocol in place to keep milking
units clean. Dirty liner heads can put cows at risk of more mastitis. Here are
some quick tips to keep milking units clean:
If using a teat scrubber make sure the team are aware if it fails,
spraying water on cow’s udder without sanitation is a serious issue.
Focus on cleaning liner heads and keep the milking unit vent
Keep units clean during milking and use a sanitizer hose
when necessary “not just water “
Once you’ve completed a thorough review of these areas,
adjust your protocols and routines to help improve your milk quality. Meet with
your team to share the new goals and KPIs and determine how you all can work
together to achieve them.
Communicating what’s going well and what could use some
fine-tuning is essential for a team to work together to produce quality milk.
Your team must be willing to make changes. Everyone involved should know their
role and be willing to take ownership as you implement changes.
Set expectations by having a specific schedule of when tasks
should take place – start of milking shift, start of each pen, wash time, etc.
Schedules not only make everyone aware of the expectations, but they help keep
the dairy running efficiently.
If you’re not already meeting with your employees regularly,
consider having regular staff meetings. Meetings give your team the opportunity
to communicate and have their voices heard. It also gives you the opportunity
to review goals and KPIs and evaluate performance.
Remember Taking control of milk quality on your farm and
having a plan to consistently manage it can result in more profitability. Work
with your dealer’s milk quality and hygiene specialist to determine which milk
quality evaluations can help bring more consistency to your farm
Dairy farmers are no realising that lower somatic cell
counts (SCC) in their bulk tanks is the future, but there is always room for
improvement, even on the best operations.
The University of Minnesota Extension Dairy Team offers
these ways that dairy producers can further improve their milk quality.
1. Keep cows clean and dry at all times. This assures clean
teat surfaces and prevents bacteria from entering the teat end.
2. Seek assistance from a qualified dairy professional
(veterinarian mastitis consultant , milking machine technician ).
3. Do individual cow SCC tests monthly to help identify herd
trends and pinpoint the infected cows.
4. Run a monthly bulk tank culture through a reliable
laboratory to find out what kinds of bacteria are causing mammary infections.
5. If bulk tank culture results show a high level of
contagious mastitis pathogens (Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae,
or Mycoplasma), identify infected cows by individual cow culturing. Reduce
cow-to-cow spread and remove the high SCC quarters from the milk supply.
6. If bulk tank culture results show high levels of
environmental pathogens (non-ag streps, coliforms, or staph species), improve
bedding management and pre-milking cow prep. Replace all organic bedding in
every stall weekly with clean bedding. Every day, replace the bedding in the
back half of the stall with fresh, clean bedding. If you use sand bedding, add
fresh, clean sand at least once per week. Keep stalls levelled and remove
soiled sand daily.
7. Improve consistency in milking procedures. Include a pre-
and post-milking teat dip, 10 to 20 seconds of cleaning, at least 30 seconds of
contact time for the teat dip, and a thorough teat end wiping before attaching
the milking unit. Plan routine to achieve 60-120 second prep-lag time.
8. Include fore stripping during cow prep to identify high
SCC quarters and keep milk from those quarters out of the bulk tank.
9. Cull chronically high SCC cows that do not respond to
10. Treat all quarters of all cows at dry off with an
approved dry cow intramammary tube.
11. Consider using a dry cow teat sealer.
12. Provide dry cows with adequate space, ventilation and
clean bedding (records indicate that an average of 35% of cows and heifers
calve with high SCCs).
13. Keep cows as cool and comfortable as possible during hot
14. Control flies.
15. Maintain milking equipment in good working order. Develop
a routine performance check and maintenance program. Replace rubber parts at
recommended intervals. Be sure system cleaning is done consistently and
The cow’s teat has evolved to allow for efficient suckling
by the calf but also to provide some defence against damage and infection from
The teat has a large mass of connecting blood vessels at its
base called the erectile venous plexus, which, when the milk let-down stimulus
occurs, make the teat become more rigid, allowing the milk to be removed by the
calf through sucking, or by the milking equipment, without the teat collapsing
The teat has nerves in the tissues, this allows the brain to
react and initiate milk let-down.
Sore and damaged teats can be predominantly painful. Teats
vary in shape and size; the more cylindrically-shaped teats are alleged to be
less-susceptible to mastitis.
The epidermis is a thick hairless outer skin, containing a
thicker layer of keratin (a substance found in hair and hooves) than is found
in normal skin. This gives it a much more rugged structure to cope with the
demands of being suckled. It has however no sweat or sebaceous glands to
lubricate it like normal skin, and so is more prone to drying and cracking. The
epidermis also has a large number of nerve endings.
The dermis is the second layer of the teat wall and carries
the nerves and blood vessels.
There is a layer of muscle, giving the teat strength and
structure, and a circular sphincter muscle around the teat canal.
The teat cistern is lined with epithelial cells, which are
square-shaped and are able to move apart, allowing white blood cells to enter
the structure as an immune system response to bacterial infection.
The teat canal is approximately 9mm in length and has a
lining comprised of folded epidermal tissue (similar to skin, but containing
more keratin), covered by a thin lipidised film. This film is hydroscopic (it
There is also a structure known as the rosette of
Furstenberg, which has an important role in detecting bacterial infection and
initiating an immune response.
The original range of wild cows was northern Africa, Europe
and southern Asia. Cows were domesticated between 10,000 and 6,500 years ago by
cultures great distances from each other. Typical western cattle are from the
older strain, which was most likely first domesticated in Turkey.
The most genetically diverse population of cattle is found
in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, which strongly indicates that cattle were
first domesticated there. There is evidence of domesticated cattle remains in
China at around the same time, about 10,000 years ago, but it is unclear if
these cattle were traded from Turkey or native to China. What is known is that
domesticated cattle from Turkey spread to Europe and Africa,
The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time
period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700
years ago. The most recent Ice Age occurred then, as glaciers covered huge
parts of the planet Earth. Evidence has shown that wild cows roamed this period,
classed as a slow moving prey species.
Cattle are prey species. Their eyes are located on the sides
of their heads, allowing them to capture movement around them. But they take
longer to focus on specific objects. Their excellent peripheral vision creates
a panorama effect on their sides. Their hearing tends to be sensitive to
high-pitched noises, dairy breeds more so than beef breeds.
The cow has always been part of the bio sphere and Archaeologists
and biologists are agreed that there is strong evidence for two distinct
domestication events from aurochs in the near east about 10,500 years ago,
Most mammals, including humans, can tolerate milk as infants, but after weaning, they lose that ability. Only about 35% of people in the world are able to digest milk sugars as adults without discomfort, a trait called lactase persistence so the herd cow was used for meat and clothing.
The 18th century saw the birth of the first breed Systematic,
selective breeding and genetic isolation finally led to the development of
hundreds of different breeds, which over time became also integral parts of
local tradition highland, welsh black, Aberdeen Angus.
Herbivores, cattle feed primarily on grasses and stems. To
pull up grass or a plant, a bovine twists its tongue around the plant and cuts
it off with its bottom teeth. In place of upper incisors, a bovine has
“dental pads” ideal for grinding coarse grasses and other plant
materials. The bovine is a ruminant, possessing a four-chambered stomach. The
four chambers are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Food first goes
through the rumen and reticulums, where bacteria help break it down into cud, substance
cattle regurgitate and chew again. Then the food goes through the omasum and
into the abomasum. This digestive process can take 70 to 100 hours
Humans have survived ice ages and deadly pandemics to become the dominant species on Earth, even if our reign over the planet barely represents a blip in a geological record that has seen countless living organisms come and go. We have adapted to live almost anywhere, Cows, for instance, are easily domesticated.
For many centuries, smallpox devastated mankind An estimated 300 million people died from smallpox in the 20th century alone , inserted pus extracted from a cowpox pustule on the hand of a milkmaid, into an incision on the arm of an eight-year-old boy, James Phipps and the vaccine was born.
Would the Human race had survived without the Cow ?
The practice of milking and stripping all cows completely
during each milking could be leading to teat damage in your herd.
Over milking can damage teat ends and compromise udder health
‘putting cows at greater risk for infection. But a simple test can help you
determine if you are over- or under milking.
The recommendation to milk all cows completely ‚every time
‘has been reviewed due to recent research and field experience. It is
impossible to milk a cow completely dry. There will always be some milk in the
udder, even after “complete” milk out, because she is constantly
In the past, it was believed that all milk needed to be
removed from the udder to maximize milk yield. However, breeding for high milk
yields has provided cows with a high alveolar capacity. Due to this, cows are
more efficient as milk producers.
Over milking starts when the milk flow to the teat cistern
is less than the flow out of the teat canal. Fluctuations within the mouthpiece
chamber vacuum can occur. If the vacuum in the cistern is higher than beneath
the teat, reverse pressure across the teat canal may increase bacterial
Reverse pressure gradients occur only during milking of
empty teats, and over milking will therefore increase the possibility of
bacteria entering the teat.
Teat-end health is also greatly affected by over milking.
Hyperkeratosis of the teat, which is a thickening of the skin that lines the
teat canal and external orifice, is often experienced in herds with long
Hyperkeratosis doesn’t allow for teats to be thoroughly
cleaned and can lead to bacteria being left behind‚which also can lead to an
increased somatic cell count.
many factors could be at fault. Milking machines must be
properly maintained, and if automatic detachers are being used, adjust for
timely removal of the milking unit. If your farm manually detaches units,
employees must be more consistent in removing the unit as soon as “end of
milking” is reached for each animal.
Timely unit attachment and proper let down, quiet cow
handling and timely unit adjustment, and proper alignment are also critical.
A few simple steps can prevent over milking and can help
decrease your overall herd somatic cell count. By following these guidelines,
your herd can reach optimum udder health.
The milking machine is the most important piece of equipment
on the dairy farm. It is used more often and more hours per year than any other
piece of equipment, including the farm tractor.
When milk completely fills any tube or line between the teat
end and the vacuum pump, the system is said to be flooded. Placing a solid
column of milk in the air column slows its movement. If air is being admitted
to the system behind the column of milk, the vacuum level will lower. Some
researchers feel that flooding alone is detrimental and vacuum fluctuation is
secondary in causing new udder infections. Their opinion is based on the
possibility of milk from an infected quarter mixing in the flooded claw and
then contaminating the teat end of an uninfected quarter. This is a
possibility. One study showed that impact forces on a teat end do occur when
the liner opens.
The Following is a list of factors involved in flooding.
Fast milking cows.
Liner tail piece of inadequate capacity.
Small Claws and wide ratios.
Elevating milk with milking vacuum.
Milk line too small for number of milkers.
Inadequate milk line slope.
In line milk filters.
Elbows in milk line.
Improperly placed milk inlets.
A 300 ml capacity claw piece enables a cluster to handle the
fastest milking cows with no danger of flooding whether on 4 x 1 or 2 x 2
pulsation, the 19mm milk nipple allows maximum flow of milk and vacuum through
the milk tube.
Most short milk tubes are now 8mm plus
Most direct to lines are 75mm, there is a maximum number of
units on a straight and looped line.
Milk lines should have a continuous and even fall towards
the receiver jar, with a minimum of 10 mm (1 cm) of drop for every metre of
pipe. This translates into a minimum
decline of 0.5%.
The more milkers in the parlour the more chance of slugging
increase the fall.
The flow of milk inside the milk line should be at a level
of less than 50%, i.e. there should be more air above the level of milk than
milk below. This is called “stratified
The milking cluster requires air vents so that the milk
lines do not become flooded. The air
vents are located either in or near the claw or in the liner.
Checking your pulsation ratio to ensure quick gentle milking
Lifting milk can increase the length of the milk vacuum slug
and reduce the vacuum level.
There should be no risers on the milk line
Having sharp bends will affect the movement of airflow milk flow and can cause flooding.
The Milking Machine does not give the cows mastitis it can spread pathogens or damage the teat skin .
I am still testing poorly installed milking equipment, why
no fit it correctly?