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.