The milking machine as a cause of severe agitation in cows

On a recent visit the dairy farmer had complaints about uneasiness of the cows during milking. The problems started after changing some parts of the milking machine. Therefore a dynamic milking machine test was carried out to detect the cause of the problems. This test showed that the removal of milk from the unit of the milking machine was insufficient with high and fast milking cows (4.0 kg/min). The cyclic variations in the short milk tube and the drop of the mean vacuum in the short milk tube did not comply with the milking –time requirements in cows with a high milk flow. Furthermore, in these cows, the mean vacuum in the beginning of the long milk tube was too low (25 Kpa) the dairy farmer had bought a cluster flush system with two inline valves next to the milk meter, this in affect was restricting the milk flow backing up to the original claw bowls (125ml capacity claws) these units prior to the fitment of the cluster flush coped with the movement of milk away from the claw.

The Cluster flush is no longer made and it has been removed and a new flush system is in the process of being installed.

Replace the milking claws by claws with a larger volume, the existing claw units are still being used (the farmer was comfortable in how he handled the unit)

After the implementation of some of the advises, the cows were at ease again. ��c��

The Bulk Milk Tank

Your Milk needs to be produced as hygienically as possible. Bacterial contamination is the most important cause of hygiene-related problems as milk is an excellent source of food for bacteria. When milk is at a temperature of about 35oC bacterial numbers can double within half an hour- so, within two hours, 1,000 bacteria in a mL of milk can become 10,000 bacteria and, within 5 hours, 1,000,000. Temperature is key, below 5oC most bacteria which affect milk quality do not multiply. However, the bacteria are not killed they are just dormant waiting for an increase in temperature to start reproducing again. High levels of bacteria in milk affect both its manufacturing properties and its shelf life.  Measuring the number of bacteria in milk is thus an extremely valuable measure of quality.

The problem is preserving the quality of raw cow milk and its complying with the main standards for dairy buyers. The initial quality of milk is found to be preserved when it is intensely cooled only during the first stage of its production.

Milk produced under hygienic conditions will retain good quality for a period of up to 15 to 20 hours. However, it is not only the storage temperature that is important; the cooling time to reach storage temperature, normally 4 °C, is also critical. Bulk milk coolers have been specially designed to cool the milk to 4 °C within a specified time period

Rapid cooling to below 4 °C greatly contributes to the quality of the milk on the farm. This treatment slows down the growth of the bacteria in the milk, thereby greatly improving its keeping qualities

Bulk milk coolers, generally, are designed to cool the milk to 4°C within a specified time period, normally 30 minutes.

However, it is vital to recognise that cooling is a part, not a solution, for hygienic working conditions. Avoiding infections through good hygiene practices, and cooling the milk as soon as possible after milking, combine to ensure high milk quality

Cooling is the part of the solution against growth, and with efficient cooling and good hygiene practice is the solution to reduce micro-organisms.

Check your cool time

If pre-cooling and refrigeration do not quickly and effectively get the temperature of the milk below 7oC, the bacteria that are naturally present in the milk at low numbers will multiply leading to elevated Bactoscan.

High thermoduric count

Thermoduric are bacteria which can tolerate high temperatures. The most common cause of a high thermoduric count is inadequate cleaning of the milking plant. There is often hard milk residue on the upper surface of the milk lines and visible residue in the tanks. Less commonly, thermoduric can arise because of environmental contamination

A recent visit to a farm it was noted the farmer was under the impression that the milk cooled in 20 minutes , however with a temperature recorder it took over one hour .

Do you know how long it takes to cool your raw milk?

Trace Minerals and the immune system

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland, probably the most prevalent disease on your farm with the highest monetary loss in dairy herds. In addition to the economic losses, mastitis in most cases is caused by bacterial invasion. Pathogenicity of the bacteria together with environmental factors and the individual condition of the cow will decide how prevalent the disease.  

Infection such as Staphylococcus aureus could produce long term mastitis; Escherichia coli are usually isolated from mastitis with an acute response.

The immunity of the cow plays a main role in the development of the mastitis

Some nutrients as trace minerals are somewhat important for the immune response against the pathogenic bacteria.

Knowledge of the trace minerals and their action mechanism is very important to improve the status of the immune system, to prevent infections and to reduce the effects produced by mastitis.

Trace minerals like zinc, iron or copper are present at a very low level but they are involved in essential functions such as catalysis of different reactions and functional processes. Trace minerals are an essential part of different proteins with different functions in the immune system.

Zinc in the organism is bound to the methallotionein that acts in the activation, adherence and invasive capacity of the macrophages.

Iron is a component of the lactoferrin, transferrin and desferoxamine. Lactoferrin is a very important glycoprotein with a high presence in milk and another epithelial secretions with high activity bactericide and bacteriostatic ability it has an inmunomodulator effect. Different research papers have shown higher lactoferrin concentrations in milk obtained from infected teats than from milk obtained from healthy teats. Epithelium secretes lactoferrin as an unspecific response against pathogenic agents. The lactoferrin could reduce the growth of many bacteria responsible for mastitis like E. coli and S. aureus. However, another bacterium like Streptococcus uberis does not reduce their development under high concentration of lactoferrin. 

Copper works in the immune response as a component of the ceruloplasmin that is involved in the inflammatory process, moreover it has antioxidant properties and plays a key role in the homeostasis of iron.

The effect of minerals in the reduction of somatic cell count and mastitis is very well known. The inclusion of organically chelated zinc has been reported to reduce somatic cell count (SCC) in high producing dairy cows, particularly when the initial SCC was high. Mechanism involved in the immune response against mastitis and infected cows

Trace minerals have an important role to play in the immune response. They participate in the immune cycle. The immune reaction is different depending on the mastitis and whether it is chronic or acute.

There is an important economic advantage to be gained by improving udder health in dairy herds. Approaches to promote these aspects should be focused on all aspects of prevention; nutrition can play a key role in maximising the immune function

Pre – Dipping

Mastitis control plans support pre-dipping. It is one of the best methods to reduce pathogens on the teat surface and an excellent process against mastitis. Many producers have taken on board the procedure and have noticed a substantial impact on the reduction of clinical mastitis and a reduction of somatic cell counts. Other producers have observed minimal impact.

Pre-dipping is applying a germicidal solution to the teats before milking machine attachment. It is an extra for the other aspects of good pre-milking sanitation. It will help ensure that the udders are clean and dry before machine attachment and will replace the use of an udder wash.

The germicide should be left on the teats for at least 30 seconds longer dependant on teat condition and soiling having cracked and organic matter on the teats will render the solution inactive. This then ensures that the solution has acceptable contact time. Teat dips require at least this amount of time to effectively kill the bacteria. This preparation will not be fully effective if the teat dip is removed too soon after application.

Pre-dipping will not work for an exceptionally contaminated environment.

Manufacturers state pre dip Kills major mastitis causing bacteria picked up from environment not contagious and not all pathogens.

DIPPING: Fill teat cup ⅔ full with pre dip.  Dip teats of every cow, making sure that the full length of the teat is immersed. Allow recommended contact time, then using a single service paper towel, wipe & dry the teats thoroughly, before continuing with the normal milking routine.  Top up with fresh solution as required.  Empty & wash out cups after milking.

SPRAYING: Spray the entire surface of each teat of every cow with pre dip. Allow recommended contact time, then using a single service paper towel, wipe & dry the teats thoroughly, before continuing with the normal milking routine.

Teat washing or udder wash, done without care, can actually greatly add to bacterial contamination of the teat canal due to pathogens present in the water being carried from higher up the teat towards the teat orifice. Washing could remove any natural oils present on the teat, contributing to the drying of teat skin, which in turn may cause skin damage or cracking where bacteria can easily colonise.

Where teats are washed they must be dried thoughrly , this will then  avoid bacterial contamination entering the teat orifice wet teats increase the  possibility of liner slip and squawks. The preferred method is to use individual towels, one per cow and washed and dried after each milking, but the use of clean paper towels is adequate.

Pre-dips and sprays tend to work differently to post-dip treatments – as they have to perform differing functions, although the types of chemicals used for pre-milking treatments are mostly the same chemical as those used for post-milking treatments. The liquids, foams and gels available as pre-milking disinfectants are designed to kill pathogens very quickly, whereas post-milking treatments have a longer term contact effect.

The chemical manufacturers will specify a time period, in which the dip or spray has to remain on the teat before it is wiped off. However dependant on your teat condition you may need more contact time, remember these are just guidelines.

Bimodal Milking.

It is very important to understand the need for good cow throughput but with the proper preparation and unit attachment procedures in order to promote good udder health.

These structured issues should be combined to achieve good cow throughput with excellent teat preparation and unit placement.

Poor Stimulation shows milk -letdown with no let down for 50seconds

Milking-Time Test shows bimodal milking

A milking –time test involves accurate monitoring of flow rates from individual cows throughout milking.

Milking –time test are now the standard as values of good milking health and hygiene are used on dairies to determine if there are concerns or problems with prep routines and flow rates. It can also be used to monitor flow rates from cows assigned to different milking preparation routines to determine if the routines produce different outcomes for flow rate profiles, peak flows and  bimodal milking.

On many dairies where the interval between teat prep and unit attachment is too short it is common to see bimodal let down profiles. Initially the cistern milk is removed and a certain flow rate is seen. It then reduces significantly for a period before increasing again as full let down finally ensues and alveolar milk is released by the oxytocin effect. During this low flow period there may be increased liner slips and squawks and potential unit falloffs, all of which are a concern. It also may produce teat end irritation as the liner collapses on the near empty teat for a period of time before full flow resumes.

Good preparation routines should stimulate quick milk let down and maximum peak milk flows. Based on a recent controlled research where comparisons were made with short prep routines (units attached less than 60 seconds after teat stimulation) with a normal routine (units attached 90 seconds after teat stimulation) they found bimodal milking improved. Fast milk out is valuable as long as end of milking flow rate threshold settings for unit removal are set for quick unit removal. If not, then extended unit on time with very low milk flow rates can lead to additional teat end irritation.

The above graph shows excellent and consistent milk let-down with good stimulation

The milking-time test objectively monitors milk flow-rate graphs on a select number of cows to understand what is happening. Ideally, once units are attached there should be few bi-modal flow patterns, peak flow would be reached quickly and units should be promptly removed when the low flow-rate setting are reached. Doing so improves udder health, teat-end condition and parlour throughput. low-rat

Common Myths about Cows You Grew up Believing

I recently had the time to visit a long lost school friend whom resides in Birmingham City Centre a world away from the rural
agrarianism , we ended up along with several other people around the table striking up a conversation about cows It started by addressing the long held myths some people truly believe .

Myth 1: Cows Have 4 Stomachs

This is one of the most common myths about cows of all time. We all grew up believing that cows had 4 stomachs and loved impressing people with that fact. But sadly, it’s not true.

Cows actually have one stomach with 4 compartments. They belong to a group of animals called ruminants– animals that have 4 stomach compartments.

Each compartment has a different purpose for the cow’s digestive system. Here’s a breakdown of these compartments:

The Rumen: This is the largest compartment, and it’s where the cow digests her feed. It’s also where nutrients are broken down and fermented, converting into energy.

The Reticulum: When the cow’s food gets here next, it gets filtered so that anything the cow wasn’t supposed to eat doesn’t make it any further. For example, she could have accidentally eaten a piece of wire or a rock. Cud is formed here, too.

The Omasum: Here, the food is filtered and broken down. Water is squeezed out, and cud is broken down.

The Abomasum: This is the final stage. Nutrients found from breaking down the food are either sent into the cow’s bloodstream or her intestines.

Myth 2: Cows Don’t Sweat.

This myth is a little more complicated than a “yes” or “no” answer.

Technically, cows don’t sweat in the same way that other mammals do. They don’t have the same type of sweat glands that other animals have.

But cows do technically sweat. It’s done through a natural heat evaporation system in the body.

Heat evaporates out of their body when they’re too hot, but it happens so fast you may not have noticed any damp skin.

So, while they may not be panting or visibly sweating like other animals, they are definitely managing the heat.

They also deal with heat through their respiratory glands. When it gets too hot, a cow’s body will naturally begin to store and reduce use of water, like urinating less, to prevent dehydration.

Myth 3: Cows Hate The Colour Red.

People believe this because matadors in bullfights use red flags to trigger the bull’s attention.

But the truth is that cows actually can’t see the colour red. They are red-green colour-blind.

This means that they see every shade of red and green as a shade of black and grey. But they don’t see entirely black and white! They can also see shades of yellow and blue.

So why do matadors always use red flags in their bullfights?

It’s the movement of the flag that catches the bull’s attention, not the colour of the flag. So the red flag is simply more of a tradition and part of the costume.

You’d probably be angry, too, if you had a flag being waved in your face!

Myth 4: Milk is full of antibiotics.

This is totally false.  Any milk that leaves the farm cannot have antibiotics in it.  All milk is tested for antibiotics before the processor even accepts it from the farm.

Myth 5: Cows don’t produce cream in milk

The standardised cow’s milk that you find in supermarkets or most corner shops is most likely homogenised. When you homogenise milk you force it through small holes so that the fat molecules break down and stay suspended in the liquid, preventing the cream from rising to the top.

Because the fat in homogenised milk is evenly distributed, it creates a uniform product that makes it easier for big dairy producers to mix lots of different milks from different herds together. It also makes it easier to filter the milk into different fat percentages. Homogenising cow’s milk adds no nutritional value.

Myth 6: Farmers hate their cows and are cruel to them

You can visit any dairy farm and see how Dairy farmers care for their cows, both because they are the basis of their farm process and because it’s simply the right thing to do.

Myth 7:Milking machines hurt the cow’s teats

The milking machines work by placing a suction cup over each teat. The suction is not constant, but more like a wave, so that it mimics the non-continuous action of a calf sucking.

Most milking machines are regularly serviced so they milk the cow gently, quickly and completely .

Happy cows liked to be milked .

Incomplete Milking

Incomplete milking means that an unacceptable amount of milk is left in the udder after teatcups are removed.

Milk left in the alveoli is residual milk. Milk left in the ducts or udder cisterns is referred to as available milk or stripping’s.

Residual milk cannot be removed, even by careful machine or hand-stripping, without an injection of oxytocin. Typically, residual milk may be 1-3 kg or about 10-20% of total milk in the udder. Higher amounts may result from incomplete milk ejection associated with poor milking routines, frightened or nervous cows, sore teats or uncomfortable milking equipment.
Lactating heifers have less residual milk than older cows. The percentage of residual milk is greater for lower producing cows than for higher producing cows. Cows with a higher percentage of residual milk usually have a lower persistency of lactation

Incomplete removal of the available or stripping’s milk occurs when:

• Teatcups are removed well before the last of the available milk drains into the udder cisterns,

• The milk pathway between the udder cistern and teat sinus, in one or more of the four quarters, becomes blocked near the end of milking. Such blockages occur when clusters do not hang evenly on the udder and/or when one or more of the four teats moves too deeply into its teatcup—referred to as teatcup crawling. The most common causes of incomplete milking due to such flow restrictions near the end of milking

• Poor condition of the liner;

• Clusters that do not hang evenly on the udder because the connecting hoses are too long, too short, twisted or poorly aligned in relation to the cow;

• High milking vacuum levels;

• A mismatch between the claw inlet and the short milk tube causing partial closure of the short milk tube where it joins the claw.

Evidence between completeness of milking and new mastitis infection rates is contradictory. Most of the older research suggested that mastitis increased when the last drop of milk was not removed.

Latest studies showed that small quantities of milk left in the udder did not increase new infection rate or clinical mastitis, and some studies found higher levels of infection associated with machine stripping.

The latest findings are not unexpected. It is likely that the new mastitis infection rate would be increased by excessive machine stripping which causes sudden air admission into one or more teatcups just before the teatcups are removed.

Most liner slip is before and after milk let down. Any increase in rate of cup slippage can increase the risk of mastitis.

Monitoring milking, the mean stripping’s yield is typically less than 0.25 kg per cow. A problem exists if an average of more than 0.75 kg of stripping’s milk is left in a cow’s udder when teacups are removed.

Uneven weight distribution between the four quarters can cause incomplete milking, uneven milk-out and liner slips. Ideally, the milking unit should hang squarely

Twisting or pulling of the milk hose can alter the alignment.

There is a long-held belief that leaving milk in the udder will lead to mastitis.

The greater concern is the risk of over-milking, which occurs when attempting to extract every last drop of milk from the udder. This can lead to teat-end damage.

Over-milking may also Increase the likelihood of transfer of infection between quarters during the period of little or no milk flow. Consequently, over milking should be avoided.

A moderate level of incomplete milking (e.g. strip yields of up to 1 litre of milk per udder) does not increase the risk of mastitis.

Leaving the unit on with no milk flow can elevate intramammary pressure resulting from milk retained in the udder after milking cessation this then could lead to tissue damage and pain.

Keep that Milking Parlour Clean

Cleanliness is the key to keeping a herd healthy and a farm in profit. Farmers know the dangers of potential diseases spreading through their herd. A cow out of action due to ill-health comes with a monitory loss in the form of lost production and treatment costs, but when that infection spreads through the herd, or even into the produced milk, the costs can have a disastrous effect on a farm.

A key part of maintaining high levels of milk quality is making sure the facilities where cows are milked are clean and sanitised. Reducing the amount of dirt and other organic matter in the milking parlour and surrounding area, you can limit its access to the udder. We all know that after milking cleaning the parlour is not one of the more enjoyable jobs on the dairy, but it certainly is necessary.

When parlours and milking facilities are kept clean, it improves the workers attitude and sends a solid message that everybody cares about parlour cleanliness and sanitation.

Cleaning and sanitising the outside of Clusters “develop a sanitised soak system “

Cleaning rump rails and steelwork.

Cleaning Control buttons daily.

If you see dirt or organic matter don’t walk past , clean it .

Attention to detail is the key.

Mastitis : are we over Treating ?

I normally say that” the best deterrent we have against mastitis is a shovel and a scrapper “I get very peculiar looks “. Keep cubicles and alleyways clean this includes the corners under gates and ends , and you’re going some way to reduce the risk for mastitis, I also point out use of good pre-treatment and pre-milking hygiene, these are going to reduce it still further .

You can group mastitis a couple of ways–contagious or environmental. So contagious means it spreads at cow to cow at milking time. Environmental bacteria live outside most of the time, bedding stalls, pastures, water troughs, puddles dirty units , clusters ,hands etc .

There are three grades of mastitis – mild, moderate and severe. The clinical signs for gram-positive and gram-negative mastitis are very similar but these pathogens behave differently within the udder.
Gram positives, without treatment may be chronic. Very often, they’re subclinical for a while before they become clinical, and we know antibiotics will make a difference in those cases with gram negatives, these are usually short-term. Cows are really good at identifying those infections and are mostly self-curing. And most of the time those cows don’t need treatment.

The aim of intramammary therapy is to help eradicate bacterial infection. Frequently treatment begins immediately after visual detection of abnormal milk. On many farms, clinical cases are often treated for about five days, many times without the benefit of a bacterial diagnosis. This means lengthy therapy has become the industry norm.

Dairy Farmers are habituated to treat the quarter until the milk returns to normal however In many cases this is not practical and sensible use of antimicrobials, because the bacteria causing the infection is often eliminated early in the process.

The objective with mastitis is to treat the infection, not the inflammation.
Inflammation does not necessarily mean infection every time.

The answer may lie in an on-farm culture. On-farm cultures can often identify the existence of infection and the type of bacteria causing the infection, so we have more control and responsible use of antibiotics.

The Cow’s Five Senses

The five senses


Vision is the foremost sense in cattle and is responsible for about half of the
sensory information they receive from their surroundings. Cattle have a 330°
vision, of this visual area, they have binocular vision for a limited area in front of
them. This is where they will have the clearest vision and ability to judge depth or
distance. In order to get the best possible vision, cattle will lower their head and
face the incitement of interest front on.
The rest of their visual field is monocular. This large monocular area is very
good for detecting predators, but they cannot judge distance here well. Because of
this poorer depth perception here, it is best to approach a cow from the side, but
moving at a slow pace. This will not spook the cow and allow you to approach
more closely than front on.
The remaining area around the cow is referred to as the blind spot. This is the
area directly behind the cow’s tail. If you approach the cow from her blind spot she
will not know you are there. Suddenly moving into or out of this position can upset
the animal and lead to flighty and erratic behaviour.
Cattle are less able to differentiate objects that differ in light intensity and
cannot see red colours as well as humans. This increases their colour contrast,
making shadows look more extreme compared to how we perceive them. Paired
with limited depth awareness, a block of shadow can look like a hole in the ground
to cattle. Shadows, very bright light and sparkling reflections will distract or slow
down cattle investigating their surroundings, often upsetting the smooth flow of
cows in a laneway. Cattle are also motivated to move from areas of low light to well
lit areas. Conversely, they will avoid moving from well lit to dark areas.
Taking cattle’s visual sense into consideration is very important when trying to
move them. In both free moving and tethered cattle, moving them can be much
easier if lighting is even, the area free of distracting and unfamiliar objects, and
you don’t make sudden, significant movements.


Cattle are very sensitive to high frequency sounds and have a wider range of
hearing than humans (a human’s auditory range is from 64 to 23 000 Hz, cattle’s
from 23 to 35 000 Hz). Despite having a greater range of auditory detection than
people, cattle have greater difficulty in locating the origin of sounds and will use
their sight to assist them determine the source. High pitched noises such as
whistling are also unpleasant to cows. Intermittent sounds such as clanging of
metal (e.g. gates), shouting and whistling can be particularly stressful, especially if
they are sudden and at a loud volume.

Due to their evolution as prey animals, cattle have a very acute sense of smell.
Cattle select their feed on the basis of smell and can detect odours many kilometres
away. They will avoid places containing urine from stressed animals, and for this
reason may be reluctant to enter places where cattle have been previously handled
such as raceways and cattle crushes. They dislike the smells of dung and saliva, so
when housed, their feeding area needs to be kept clean and smell fresh, not
contaminated with dung, saliva or exudate from other cows’ noses. Herd hierarchy
is strongly linked to smell, as shown by studies where the social order among cows
was unaltered by blindfolding them.
As well as a sensitive nose, they have an additional olfactory sensitive organ,
called the vomeronasal organ, on the roof of their mouth. The reception of odours
by this organ is used for the reinforcement and maintenance of sexual interest.
When seeking and finding a suitable cow on heat, this is characterised by the
‘flehman expression’ in mating bulls, in which the head is directed upwards with
the mouth ajar, the tongue flat and the upper lips curled back. This is thought to
aid odour sampling by allowing air to contact the roof of the mouth during
inhalation. Bulls appear to increase their olfactory behaviour about four days
before cows show signs of oestrus.
The production and detection of pheromones is another way cattle seek out
suitable stock for mating. For this reason, cows on heat spend much time sniffing
and licking the anal and vaginal areas of other cows. Other pheromones convey
fear. Cattle respond to pheromones produced in fearful situations by increasing
their own physiological stress response and fear behaviours. Cattle are also
sensitive to the odours of potential predators, like dogs, spending more time
sniffing the air and in cautious movement. In comparison to humans, cattle are
able to detect much smaller differences in odour concentration.

There are four primary tastes identifiable in cattle. These are:
● sweetness (associated with energy supply)
● saltiness (associated with electrolyte balance)
● bitterness (assists to avoid toxins and tannins that reduce the nutritive value of
● acidity (linked to pH balance).
The taste receptors are located in specific areas of the tongue, with differences
between cattle and humans in their taste discrimination, sensitivity and location
on the tongue. Cattle have two to three times as many taste buds as humans, and
so are more sensitive to tastes. Cattle can be apprehensive when it comes to eating
novel food – feed with unfamiliar tastes and smells. For example, they need
artificial sweeteners to mask bitter tastes such as zinc in water.


Skin receptors are used to detect pressure, movement, temperature and some
damaging pathological conditions such as inflammation. Humans have increased
sensitivity in their fingertips whereas cattle often use their extended mouth as a
sampling tool in exploratory situations.
Cattle perceive extreme ambient temperatures, relative humidities and/or wind
speed through thermoreceptors, skin dryness (particularly in the throat and nasal
passages) and mechanoreceptors. They learn their comfort or thermoneutral zones,
above and below which they must use physiological processes to sustain their core
body temperatures. They then modify their behaviour accordingly, such as seeking
cooler locations during hot weather to find more favourable microclimates. As the
lower critical temperature of adult cows is −23°C, they are rarely affected by cold
stress. Heat stress is a common problem, at 21°C cattle increase their respiration rate,
and at 25°C, above which they reduce feed intake to reduce metabolic heat……….