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 this problem.
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.