How to save money?

There is no doubt that today’s dairy farmers are facing uncertain times.

I think it’s always good looking forward, dairy farmers must find ways to become more efficient and productive.

The milk buyers are unpredictable to milk producers; you don’t really know where the price will be in coming months. To survive in the dairy industry, a farm must try to be above average if you want to be average or below that’s fine however there are several areas of potential improvement at the individual farm level that may help

One such area that could provide your farm a better cash flow and profit is milk quality.

Mastitis can be expensive.

On average, a case of clinical mastitis costs £250-450 more if the cow is lost

Based on figures from 2017 cases recorded were up to 40%, they were known recorded cases?

So why are treatment costs so high, labour, drugs, veterinary, discarded milk, death loss, and future milk loss.

In addition, treatment of cows with antibiotics, there is no guarantee on a cure, possibility of cross infection.

It is important to assess and review the monthly incidence of clinical mastitis on your farm.

You don’t have to have computerized records, it is still easy to keep track of.

If your monthly incidence of clinical mastitis is more than 2%, you have to sit down and look at making improvements.

Somatic Cell Counts

Bulk tank somatic cell count (BTSCC) is another area to improve the finances of your dairy.

Many dairy farmers are not making it a priority to reduce their BTSCC below the desired level or ignoring bacterial counts.

In addition to premiums, cows with high SCC are not efficient a cow with a cell count of over a million can give up to 25% less milk.

On average, cows lose about 0.5 of milk per day for every time her SCC doubles.

Clinical mastitis is no different.

Culturing clinical mastitis cases prior to treatment is the first step in to identify the area to improve

Look at days in milk at the time of clinical cases.

It comes as no revelation that when a recently fresh cow has a case of clinical or high sub clinical mastitis, her entire lactation is affected.

Look at cows with chronically high SCC.

What benefit does an extremely high cell count cow add to your herd?

Culturing these cows is also helpful.

Remember a cow with other issues (poor feet and legs, low production, etc.) may also be a high SCC cow.

Spending a fortune on treatment may not be the answer.

However you cannot simply cull your way out of a milk quality issue.

Assess parlour procedures, milking systems, cow cleanliness, treatment protocols, and housing management so when a high SCC is sold or treated, another cow doesn’t just take her place.

Milk quality is normally not related to just one obvious problem.

It is an accumulation of many small management steps.

Your investment in the herd should focus on a long term plan, not short term adjustments, thinking the problem will go away. It won’t!

200,000 SCC isn’t low enough

From Mike Lormore | DVM, MS, MBA | Director | Cattle Technical Services | Zoetis

An 11-year study involving 489 year-end financial- and production-record summaries from Midwest USA herds shows that a 200,000 cell/mL goal isn’t really good enough. The study was done cooperatively between Zoetis and Compeer Financial Services.

In the study, the top third of herds had a bulk tank average cell count of 134,000 cells/mL while the bottom third had a 284,000 cells/mL average. “The difference in SCC was associated with an 4kg differences in milk production, increasing pregnancy rates and fewer death losses,” says Mike Lormore, Director of Dairy Cattle Technical Services for Zoetis.

“The challenge,” he says, “is to rethink your ultimate SCC goal—200,000 SCC isn’t low enough. The study showed that for every 100,000 cells/mL increase in bulk tank SCC, milk yield declines 2-3 kg

. “To increase dairy production and operation profitability, pushing your SCC lower—to 150,000 or even 100,000—is critical,” Lormore says.

Doing so involves three steps:

1 Keep SCC in check. Have a management strategy that actively monitors individual cow cell count and new infections. “Have protocols in place for identifying mastitis pathogens and treating them,”

2 Prevent new infections. “When going into the dry period, set protocols that are both tailored to clear up existing infections and prevent new ones,

3 Reduce mastitis risk. “Nothing lessens the financial impact of mastitis like reducing the risk of it occurring,” Use genomic testing to identify and raise cattle that are less susceptible to mastitis and other diseases. He says cows in the top quartile of mastitis-resistant animals need half as many mastitis treatments and have half as much discarded milk as cows in the bottom quartile.

4 Sometimes, despite our best efforts, cows die. While not a specific measure, death rates are really an indicator of overall animal husbandry practices.  Excellent animal husbandry skills have tremendous impacts on herd profitability. All data point to net farm income being positively influenced by a qualified, invested workforce capable of maintaining healthy lactating and replacement animals, maintaining efficient reproduction and limiting involuntary culling and death losses.

5 The cost of cow turnover is not just the difference between replacement heifer costs and the value of a cull cow. Consider the productivity potential of the animal being removed compared with a new cow. First lactation cows produce 15% less milk than second lactation cows and 25% less than third lactation. As such, replacing an older cow with a first-lactation animal represents a significant loss in current productivity and individual animal cash flow. Unmanaged cow turnover can be a huge drain on profits.

6 The study showed that both the top and bottom one-third of herds took heifer raising seriously, with top herds averaging 95% heifer survival rate and bottom herds averaging 93% survival rate. A strong focus on heifer management impacts profitability from many angles, and the compounding impact of successful heifer management substantially supports successful long-term sustainability.

what you need to know about Post milking disinfection !!

The rate of new udder infection is related to the number of mastitis-causing pathogens on teat ends. Using a post dip directly after unit removal will kill pathogens this then reduces the chance of those pathogens getting into the udder.

Post milking teat disinfection is especially effective against the contagious pathogens Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae. While milking can spread any type of mastitis pathogen, these two pathogens in particular spread from cow to cow during the milking process. Post milking teat disinfection is less effective in reducing the new infection rate of “environmental” pathogens such as coliforms and Streptococcus species other than Streptococcus agalactiae. Control of environmental pathogens requires management practices including maintaining cows in a clean, dry environment; good premilking hygiene, including premilking teat disinfection and thoroughly drying teats; and using functionally adequate milking machines. Milkers should continue post milking teat disinfecting as a routine part of milking procedures, even if Streptococcus agalactiae has been eliminated and somatic cell counts are low.

Latest research has shown 50% of new udder infections can be prevented by disinfecting teats with an effective product immediately after every milking. Teat disinfection DOES NOT affect existing infections. Existing infections are best eliminated by dry cow treatment and culling chronically infected cows. Prevention of new infections by teat disinfection and elimination of existing mastitis cases reduce the level of mastitis in a dairy herd year by year. Improvements, such as decreased cases of clinical mastitis and/or lowered herd somatic cell counts, generally can be observed within a few months. Do not expect a magic wand to resolve any ongoing issues it takes hard work and determination and time!

Post milking teat disinfectants can be applied either by dipping or spraying. Either method is acceptable, if done in a manner that thoroughly covers the entire teat. Care should be taken to ensure that all four teats are covered. The disinfectant should be applied immediately after every milking.

Store all disinfectants in cool, dry areas. Do not allow disinfectants to freeze! Keep containers closed to prevent contamination, do not use after the expiration date. Do not adopt a mind-set that teat disinfectants will kill all pathogens. They don’t?

Follow label instructions for use. Use teat disinfectants at the recommended concentration. Do not dilute unless indicated on the label. If dilution is necessary, be sure that water quality standards (bacteria, pH, hardness, etc.) are met. Use a clean container for diluting, and thoroughly mix the final product.

Disinfectant cups should be emptied and cleaned as part of the routine wash-up after each milking or if they become contaminated during milking. Never pour used disinfectant back into the original container.

Good teat disinfectants should have efficacy against the major mastitis pathogens, be economical, easy to apply, and should maintain or promote good skin condition. Both traditional and barrier types of disinfectants are available. Whatever type is chosen, the product should have documented efficacy against all the major contagious mastitis pathogens, insist on the supplier providing this information, saying it kills pathogens in 15 seconds is utter nonsense , what is this claim based on ? don’t fool yourself in believing these adverts .

Dairy farmers should demand information from the manufacturer on compliance regulations and results of controlled research studies showing efficacy. A lot of labelling is very sparse and uninformative, for example some labels should state they dry skin,

It is important to educate yourself about the products that you are considering. They should inquire as to the types of studies that have been conducted, the pathogens that the product is designed to control, and the efficacy results.

What affect these dips have with dry chapped skin , how affective is the teat disinfectant when in contact with excessive lime on beds , think before you buy .

More than 50% of new udder infections can be prevented with proper teat disinfection.

Apply teat disinfectant immediately after milking.

Ensure that disinfectant thoroughly covers the entire surface of all teats.

Handle teat disinfectants properly.

Demand information and educate yourself about the teat disinfectant that you plan to use.

Teat disinfecting is an important part of a mastitis control plan. In addition to disinfecting teats immediately after milking, using good milking and environmental management procedures, using properly functioning milking equipment, treating every quarter of every cow at dry off, identifying and treating or managing clinical cases promptly, and culling chronically infected cows should provide an effective mastitis control plan for your dairy.

Milking Machine Pulsation

The Pulsation of your milking machine acts as the heartbeat of the entire milking system to ensure proper milk removal.

Poorly performing pulsators can and will affect the overall milking performance on your dairy and negatively impact teat condition and cow comfort. Make sure the pulsation of your milking system is working correctly by considering the following maintenance and evaluation steps.

Milk removal and teat health really depend on the pulsation settings, which control an alternating pattern of atmospheric air and vacuum to open and close the teat cup liner. Improper open and close cycles can cause erratic pulsation, resulting in irritation to the teat ends and a reduction of milk flow.

Ensure accurate pulsation settings by graphing pulsators six monthly. This will help keep the pulsation settings steady by evaluating the length of the four pulsation phases: A, B, C and D. In general, the A and B phase indicate liner open times, and the C and D phase indicate liner close time

A full pulsation cycle includes the time it takes to rotate through all four pulsation phases and typically takes approximately one second to complete, although this number can vary based on the rate selected.

According to ISO standards, the B phase should be at least 30 percent of the total pulsation cycle, and the D phase should be at least 15 percent. However, most manufacturers recommend settings much higher to maximize milk flow on today’s higher-producing cows.

Average B phase settings of 450 to 525 milliseconds, and average D phase settings of 200 to 250 milliseconds are also commonly recommended. When evaluating the pulsation settings, you should consult your manufacturer’s recommendations for the brand of equipment and liner used.

Pulsation is similar, we can shorten A’s and C’s to a point or we can let them be and spend more time doing things that don’t help us milk cows. B phases milk cows and D phases remove congestion, plain and simple. The goal of every milking event should be clean and complete. Clean teats, cleanly milked, with milk completely removed. Removal of all things that prevent that from happening is the goal.

It’s also important to assess the pulsation rate and ratio when graphing the pulsation system. Maintaining an accurate pulsation rate and ratio can provide proper pulsation for optimal open and close times and teat condition.

Like the beats per minute of your heart rate, the pulsation rate calculates the number of complete pulsation cycles per minute. To maintain recommended liner open and close times, the pulsation rate is generally between 55 and 62 cycles per minute and should be consistent from day to day.

The pulsation ratio represents the percentage of open and close time in each pulsation cycle. The default pulsation ratio is oftentimes split between 60 percent open time and 40 percent close time.

 However, it is always important to consult with the manufacturer, as recommendations for pulsation rates and ratios can vary based on the type of equipment and liner being used. In addition, equipment should always be fine-tuned by your local milking equipment specialist.

Vacuum levels should be consistent among all pulsators. Pulsation settings, vacuum levels and clean air work in unison to properly open and close the liner for optimal milk flow. Indicators of correct vacuum and pulsation settings include cow comfort during milking, teat colour or markings teat end thickness and teat rings. \lsdunhideuse

If you can’t see something does it mean it doesn’t exist?

The milking machine is used to remove milk from the cow’s udder. It has to work very efficiently so that cows are milked quickly and gently with minimal effects on udder health. You cannot afford to have cows leaving the milking parlour with milk remaining in their udder because the machine was not working correctly

The milking machine is often neglected compared to other pieces of machinery on the farm. Most farmers are good about servicing their tractors but the milking machine might only be serviced once or twice a year, irrespective of how many hours of use it has carried out.

The milking machine can increase the risk of mastitis in several ways including damage to the teat canal, damaging teat skin, teat congestion, hyperkeratosis and liner slip. It is important to ensure that every milking machine is not contributing to mastitis problems.

A poorly functioning machine can increase teat damage resulting in more mastitis and higher cell counts. The teat canal is the main defence mechanism to keep bacteria out of the udder

One of the most common forms of damage is hyperkeratosis where there is excess keratin production and this keratin protrudes from the teat-end. Keratin lines the teat canal, has antibacterial properties and helps trap bacteria as they try and enter the udder.

Teat scoring can be carried out immediately after unit removal and can quantify levels of hyperkeratosis, congestion, oedema etc. The greater the level of hyperkeratosis, the greater the risk of mastitis occurring. Teat scoring should be carried out on a regular basis to monitor teat health and skin condition.

However a recent conversation with a dairy farmer made me think as to what really goes on with the milking process and teat damage that can’t be seen as in the teat cistern and the damage internally,

The teat meatus, streak canal and sphincter muscle always gets the attention and rightly so, it’s what can be seen along with teat skin condition.

The teat cistern and gland cistern can become damaged, experience shows that this damage can cause mastitis, reduced yield and slow milking

Swelling in the annular ring, cricoid rings, Furstenberg’s rosette and Thetis

Inflammation of the teat cistern can be associated with the milking machine vacuum and reverse pressure.

All the above can be a machine induced problem and can be caused by high and even very low vacuum levels, poor pulsation settings or over milking (leaving the units on after the cow has finished milking or putting the unit on too early when milk let-down has not started should be avoided, swelling can also be influenced by environmental conditions, weather and milking management.

Lowering Cell Counts

More and more dairy producers are lowering somatic cell counts (SCC) in their bulk tanks, but there is always room for improvement, even on the best operations.

So how can you continue the improvements?

They are:

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 control and milking machine advisers, milk equipment dealer,).

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. Ensure all milkers adhere to the same 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. Use a CMT kit

9. Cull chronically high SCC cows that do not respond to therapy.

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. Making sure you use the sealant correctly, it’s there to seal the teat.

12. Provide dry cows with adequate space, ventilation and clean bedding an average of 35% of cows and heifers calve with high SCCs. You need to be below average.

13. Keep cows as cool and comfortable as possible during hot weather, plenty of access to water.

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.

The above recommendations are based on good management skills

Avoiding just one of the above you may not succeed

Lowering cell counts is not an easy task it takes time, persistence and skill.

Ensure all employees know there tasks and why they do them , can they improve ? 

Teat cup crawl

Teat cup crawl

Is the movement of the teat cup up the teat as internal pressure in the udder drops during milking? this can pinch off the opening of the teat cistern and stop milk flow.

We always associate slipping teatcup liners with an increase in new mastitis infection

The Liner and claw design is a subtle balancing act between a milking unit which will slip and fall off and one that will crawl up the teat and restrict milk flow.  Liner slip seems to have a most significant impact on udder health.  Its opposite, teat cup crawl, can also adversely influence milking performance by increasing “strip yield” or reducing milk out.

The teat cup liner collapses around the teat to relieve the stresses caused by the vacuum used to remove milk from the teat.  It is important that teats penetrate into the liner barrel to provide “relief” of the teats during the massage phase.  In some liners, teats less than 50mm may not be massaged adequately.

The incidence of teat cup crawl was significantly higher in the cows with a certain shaped teats

The evidence now shows there is a significant reduction in milk yield associated with teat cup crawl, some research institute quote over 30%

There is usually a slight natural restriction at the point where the teat cistern meets the udder cistern and this can influence the strip yield

A common cause of cup crawl during milking is when the claw vacuum is too high, sometimes even by only a small amount.

Claw vacuum is measured at the claw during milking. It is part of milking time testing of a plant, and it is NOT the same as the system vacuum, which is measured by the vacuum gauge.

A number of factors contribute to the difference between system and claw vacuum, including milk line position and restrictions such as bends elbows, milk flow meters, mastitis detectors, etc., between the claw and the milking. �

Do you really know what happens at the teat end during milking

A visit to a farm last week resulted in some disturbing findings!

The farmer had dropped the vacuum level on a high line parlour thinking that this would help with what he described as teat end damage, however he was not aware of the consequences of the liner movement under load during peak milk flow.

Understanding the many components that make up a milking vacuum system and recognizing how vacuum function integrates with the entire milking system is key to achieving an optimal milk yield.

Subtle changes to a milking vacuum system often go unnoticed. But only a small change can create a big issue on teat-end health and ideal milking performance. By properly maintaining your vacuum system, you can ensure the efficient yield of milk while protecting teat stress.

Machine milking produces a milking vacuum or reduction in air pressure underneath the teat. The pressure differential overcomes the strength of the sphincter muscle surrounding the teat canal, allowing available milk to pass through the teat opening.

The vacuum at the teat end needs to remain stable to protect teat health.

The vacuum system is also a vital component of an effective washing system.

Each component of the vacuum system serves an important function, so it’s essential to schedule complete system test on a routine basis. Without a consistent and stable vacuum source, milking and cleaning can be negatively impacted.

A technician should check the vacuum system monthly for fall-off and overshoot testing.

This test not only evaluates the vacuum pump; it also ensures the regulators and transducers are working properly for ideal vacuum levels.

Monitor cow behaviour from milking to milking. Vacuum levels affect cow comfort, and cows may be stepping or kicking at the milking unit, especially at the end of milking, if vacuum levels are off or milking time is extended with a drop in yield due to a lower teat end vacuum.

Install and maintain an accurate vacuum gauge and monitor it daily to ensure the vacuum level for your system is correct. Vacuum level can greatly influence milkability.

Milking Inflations

The milking machine inflation is the only piece of equipment that comes in to direct contact with dairy cows on a consistent basis.

The liners inside the shells of the milking cluster are the boundary between cow and machine.

But how do you decide which of the hundreds of liners on the market are best for your cows?

The compounds of different liners could make milk cows in a specific manner.

For example, soft silicone liners are likely to give a gentle milking, whilst thick-walled, rubber liners are more likely to give a fast milking.

However, it must be remembered that the liner is only half the story.

By altering the operating vacuums and pulsation settings, the silicone liner can give a quick and less gentle milking, whereas the rubber liner can be made to milk cows gently but less quickly.

The “tautness” of a liner is a key factor in how it milks the cow.

Higher tension liners give a quicker milking, but apply a greater pressure to the teat end, increasing the risk of hyperkeratosis (rough teat ends) and mastitis.

The greater the length of shell, the more we stretch the liner, increasing tension and changing the way the cow is milked.

The mouthpiece depth and barrel diameter should be such that the teat fits comfortably on the majority of the cows.

This ensures that the mouthpiece is separated from the lower part of the liner by the teat, effectively forming two different sections.

If there is too much contact between the area below the teat and the mouthpiece, then vacuum at the top of the teat will become too high.

This leads to slower milk flow from the teat, disruption of flow of blood and fluid around the teat and discomfort for the cow.

The amount of liners on the market place is mind boggling key areas to start are you looking to increase milking speed? Is your herd made up of high flow-rate cows? Do you focus on good stimulation of milk let-down? Then a fast milking liner may be the choice for you.

Alternatively, perhaps you are struggling with rough teat ends? Focus on a more “gentle” liner

Poor-fitting liners lead to the vacuum at the mouth piece chamber becoming too high for safe and efficient milking.

This is often seen with triangular or square liners.

For this reason, most triangular liners (and some other liners) are fitted with holes to vent the mouthpiece. This increase in air flow can affect the milking machine effective reserve. }funct

Before You Take Advice Do Your Homework

A visit to a client who had made small but significant changes to both his milking equipment and milking routine based on advice from an engineer had exposed some milking efficient and mastitis risks that he had been unaware of.

A change to a different liner, a small change to system vacuum and a change in the milking routine to ensure that teats were disinfected much sooner after cup removal in his 16 / 32 herringbone were the key alterations that had been made.

Some weeks after he had made these changes, I was requested to undertake a milking time test to warrant that the changes had actually resulted in a reduced risk of mastitis infections and improved milking efficiency.

Teat end damage had been especially significant, it was important to assess and see the results of teat scoring at this milking visit, the teats were blue and significantly teat condition was poor

However, it wasn’t very far into milking when we realised that something was terribly wrong!

The first group of cows had been principally uneasy – cows were swishing their tails, stomping their feet, and units were kicked off. Getting units attached onto the cows had become a nightmare and the milkers were becoming irate and needless to say unhappy!

It was quite clear the cows were not content and the milkers were stressed!

The cows were not flowing through the parlour and once the units were attached and aligned it wasn’t long before they were on the floor.

What was the cause of the sudden onset of this behaviour? Poorly installed milking equipment and advice!

The milkers had noticed over the last few weeks that the machine was irritating the cows, but obviously the equipment had just been installed and it was thought to be perfect for milking, and the number kick offs escalated dramatically, to the point that at this milking the units were being kicked of every other cow

However the dairy farmer had neglected to tell me that he had asked the engineer several times to rectify the problem, with the wise words of the cows will get used to the units

Significant changes had been made with a new type and bore of milking liner and an alteration of the milk and rest phase of the pulsation along with a drop in the vacuum level, reducing the vacuum level extended the unit on time and the cows did not like it plus a wide rest phase increased the compression and the teat meatus was becoming damaged causing irritation and discomfort  

The teat cistern was also compressed causing poor milk flow due to narrow bore of the liner.

The dairy farmer had been told that small bore liners would reduce liner slip and that a wider rest phase and reduction of vacuum level would be kinder to the cow’s teats. r