recent research on over milking

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 making milk.

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 infection.

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 unit-on times.

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.

Cow Flow into Parlour .

Poor cow flow can affect costs and increase standing time – and therefore reduce feeding, drinking and lying times. These issues have poor consequences for foot health, and for milk production.

Cows milked in poorly maintained milking equipment will be reluctant to come into the parlour.

Check vacuum levels, automatic cup remover (ACR) settings and milking liners and also think about the standing point of the cow in the parlour.

Milking bigger cows in a parlour that was designed 16 years ago for smaller animals can make standing uncomfortable.

This can lead to less-effective milk let-down and incomplete milk-out.

Providing a small rise in the floor towards the parlour can also encourage cows to face and move forwards.

Installing rubber mats in a strip at the entrance to the parlour can draw cows towards the parlour.

Fitting rubber matting in the milking stalls, on exit and at any sharp turns can aid comfort and thus flow.

Cow flow typically becomes a problem on farms that have expanded and either extended or put in bigger parlours.

This is a particular problem when the size of the collecting yard has not changed and cow numbers have increased.

This means cows can be too tight in the collecting yard stopping the dominant or milking entry cows unable to move easily through the herd and into the parlour.

If used too much, a backing gate can push cows too close together and reduce space per cow, reducing cow movement.

The key is to set the gate’s sensitivity and resistance, so that when it comes into contact with a cow it stops.

Linking the rear gate of the parlour to the backing gate also helps to stop the space per cow from being compromised.

Never bunch cows with a gate this has a negative affect an can cause stress .

Cows do not like moving from light to dark so it’s important to minimise shadows.

They see shadows as holes.

Cows should move in a straight line in and out of the parlour as sharp bends can affect movement.

Avoid strangers from entering the parlour during milking .

Is you Milking Machine Flooding ?

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 Above Graph shows a brand new parlour with slugging in the milk line due to a sharp bend , this value only just complies .

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 flow

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? “

Think about Cubicles ?

There are a number of cubicle features that can affect welfare. Ideally, a cubicle will allow an animal to lie down and rest without hitting or rubbing against partitions.

An appropriate cubicle length will prevent soiling of the bedding and reduce risk of injury. Cubicles that are too short for the cow or partitions with rear support legs may cause rubbing and swelling on the hocks. A good depth and cleanliness of cubicle bedding will create comfort and also prevent knee swelling and hock injuries.

The cubicle must be wide enough for the cow to lie comfortably but narrow enough to prevent her from turning around. The cubicle also needs to provide the natural rising behaviour of the cow. Brisket boards that provide space for the cow to lunge forward when she kneels down to reach a lying position will facilitate the easy movement to lying which may prevent awkward twisting of the neck, back and front legs. The cow should not come into contact with the cubicle partition in such a way that could cause injury.

When a cow rises from a lying position, she lunges forward to transfer the weight from her hindquarters onto her front legs. She will then raise her hindquarters before raising her forequarters. To accommodate this transfer of weight, the cow thrusts her head forward as she lunges. Studies have shown that a cow requires between 0.7 and 1.0m of space in front of her to rise easily. If the forward lunging space is constrained, she will have difficulty in rising. She also throws one foot forward when rising and any barrier to this normal activity may compromise the way she raises and possibly lead to lameness and reduced cubicle occupancy.

When there is not a cubicle for every cow, lying time reduces, aggressive interactions between cows increase, incidences of lameness and mastitis both increase. Should be at least as many cubicles as there are cows in the house. However, it is essential that all cubicles are functioning by the cows. If some cubicles are less attractive or broken then it is necessary to have more than one cubicle per cow.

A paper published in the USA reported that for every 10% increase in stocking rate above 80% occupancy, there is reduction of 0.73kg milk per cow per day.

Animals which are lower in the social hierarchy spend between 10 and 45% of their day standing in the passages. As a result, subordinate cows suffer more sole, interdigital and heel lesions. Providing additional cow places in the cubicle system will allow these cows to lie without risk of aggressive interactions. Other studies have demonstrated that not all cubicles are occupied to the same degree, with some being more preferred to others. This will also result in subordinate cows standing for longer periods of time.

There is also considerable debate regarding the location of cubicles within a building and how this can affect occupancy. In a Canadian study, cubicles closest to a feed passage were occupied for 68% of the day compared with only 48% occupancy for cubicles which were further from the feed area. In addition, cubicles at the end of rows were occupied 25% less than cubicles located in the centre of the row.

This may be because the cows have to walk further to food or have to navigate certain physical barriers (narrow passages) or social obstacles dominant cows) on their way to more distant cubicles. Work carried out in Cambridge in 1990 indicated that the movement and resting of subordinate animals is heavily influenced by the location of dominant animals 

Cow Transition to sheds

Moving cows into new sheds is stressful due to an increased level of confrontational activities and bullying between cows.

Shed design can either increase or reduce stress depending on cow comfort factors. Reducing stress in the dry period should reduce the risk of cows developing any metabolic disorders and immune stress.

Building design can have an immediate impact on the health and welfare of the transition cow. An understanding of dairy cows social behaviour is essential for future housing requirements. It is important to consider the behavioural stresses encountered by dairy cows in modern cubicles or loose housed sheds, the task of pen moves to different groups, and the effects of over-stocking within these groups.

Transition does not affect all animals equally. Ill health does not affect all animals in a shed at the same time; rather, some cows are unaffected and perform well, while a few succumb to the stress and perform poorly.

To improve cattle handling, we must provide for the needs of each cow so that she can behave as a herding animal, eating with the herd, resting with the herd, and socializing without fear.

Latest studies in problem herds have led to increasing concern about the frequency and character of these pen moves on the well-being of the transition cow.

While the effect of a pen move on the average cow appears to be unassertive, the effect appears to be more significant on low-rank cows. The subject of rank and social dominance is complex studies describe three different ranking orders in cow herds; dominance, leadership and parlour entrance order. The rankings for each are not the same. For example, the “lead” cow is not likely to be the most dominant cow.

Dominance hierarchies in cows are strongly associated with age, body size, and seniority in herd

Confinement appears to increase levels of conflict, even in established groups of cows. Low-rank cows spent approximately 15% of their time in submissive or avoidance behaviour in confinement, and their movements were frequently blocked by dominant cows in their paths

For low rank individuals, especially primipara cows, in mixed age groups, moves during the transition period could be of great significance. A pen move causes a social disruption lasting 2 to 5 days. Residency within a shed convenes some elevation in rank of animals already in place. Small heifers will usually be subordinate to larger mature cows; however, cows losing weight, a common occurrence around calving time, may change rank. In any of the several pens that a cow visits during the transition process,
Agonistic behaviour is social behaviour related to fighting interactions within a group will be intensified wherever overstocking occurs which determines good transition . Two critical control points for transition management are therefore; stocking density in pre-fresh, maternity and post fresh pens, and the number of pen moves around calving time.

Moving cattle between groups is unavoidable on modern dairy farms. However, the number of moves should be limited. Currently, most dairy advisors recommend a two-group dry period. Popular with progressive farmers. 

Are you milking to your potential ?

Once again a recent farm visit highlighted a poor milking routine with bimodal milking and just as worrying over milking .

Having other milking machine testers and engineers comment that it won’t make any difference is truly absurd and negative.

How to judge Milking efficiency? It is from the time the cluster is attached that milk is flowing near peak. When milk isn’t flowing while the unit is attached,  is not only unproductive, but more importantly, it can lead to stress  on the teat, which then in turn  damages teat tissue and hence increases the risk of mastitis and decreases milk yield.

There are two issues that lead to poor milking efficacy: milking routines that result in delayed milk let down (bimodal milk let down) and over milking. Either one of these problems can expose teats to high vacuum levels. Latest research concludes you set herd goals for milking efficacy to help increase awareness to both the operators and managers.

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 placement.

Depending on the settings for end milk flow and delay of the automatic take-offs, units can remain attached for periods of low milk flow. Also, milk let down can vary between cows despite consistent milking protocols. Fresh cows, nervous heifers, or cows bulling may digress from the normal stimulation.

Nonetheless, if sound milking preparation is combined with correctly set  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 placing a unit on the cow. It is about understanding how your cows let milk flow, this in turn can draw attention to possible chances to improve teat health, mastitis control and milk production.

The exposure of cows to bimodal milk let down and over milking varies greatly between herds. If milking efficiency is poor it may be time to embrace  new methods and  milking practices, both before and at the end of milking, asses equipment function,.

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.

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 removal.

So you think you know your cows

So you think you know your cows

Every day cows need to do three things to be productive


Sounds simple, it really is if you know these facts

Make sure the cows have accessible feed after exiting the parlour

Make sure there is clean water

Make sure that every bed is clean dry and comfortable

A simple time scale for milk production within a 24 hour timescale

RESTING      14 hours


MILKING                 4 hours

So next time you are thinking of developing your dairy THINK of this timescale

Cows standing in the collecting yard for 3 hours reduce milk production

This includes cows standing to go to the feed area .

Cows standing in cubicle house are not producing milk ask yourself why?

Milk the cows calmly gently and quickly

Your cows will be happy healthy and produce more milk

What 50 years of Research has told us ?

It’s strange that for over 50 years we have been told in order to improve milk quality, low cell counts and low bactoscan we need to milk clean, dry, stimulated teats and yet these small factors are still not adhered to.

Reduced rates of clinical cases of mastitis in these low cell count exceptional milk quality herds have several factors that do not vary with the herd sizes or type of operations. Some of these dairies are small, some are organic and some are large, but they all have management based on producing quality milk.

It is really simple and common to all farms with excellent milk quality, the farm adopts a policy and strives and wants to have low cell count milk and they make sure all employees are working for the same goals.

It doesn’t cost a huge amount to be thorough and focus on the small things.

1 Consistent cow handling to ensure clean, calm cows enter the milking facility at every milking.

2 Consistent milking procedures and routines at every milking regardless of who is milking. The goal is to have 10 to 12 seconds of teat contact time during preparation followed by attaching units at 90 to 120 seconds after the teats are first touched.

Cows milked with a standardized milking routine, where premilking preparation and timing were optimized, produced 5.5% more milk in their lactations compared to cows milked without standardized routines. These results were presented in a Danish study published in a Journal of Dairy Science paper.

Consistent udder preparation will reduce the average milking time. Cows with reduced time on unit will have better teat end and skin condition and therefore they will have fewer bacteria on teats when units are attached. The key factor to the new infection rate for mastitis is the number of bacteria on teats when units are attached.

3 Dip all teats with a post milking dip as soon as possible after milking. Have at least two-thirds or more of the complete teat covered with post milking teat dip.

4 Have a monitoring program in place to ensure all the operators are working to the same procedures. Have some method of communicating how operators performed after every milking; filter sock cleanliness Constancy is vital to capitalize on both milk quality and milk quantity.

5 Make sure cows are lying on clean dry bedding comfortable for lactating and dry cows. Inexorable attention to bedding management is critical.

6 Move towards Dynamic milking machine testing, ensure rubbers are not worn or perished, settings on parlour are accurate and correct. Ask questions about teat condition and unit on time. =

Forces Applied to the teat End

Researchers have constructed a force transducer to study the forces exerted by the liner on the teat during milking. The objective was to develop a method of comparing the action of different liners under a variety of different milking conditions… They have published on the ‘touch-point pressure ‘of liners and the ‘compressive load applied across the teat. Consistent finding is that the forces applied to the teat tip are several times greater than those applied to the sides of the teat barrel. This difference in force is intentional. When a liner closes around the teat during the D phase and some latest research commenting on the C phase of the pulsation cycle, the purpose is to squeeze the teat from the tip such that the waste fluids of tissue metabolism can pass back into the normal circulatory system of the udder. The increased pressure applied to the curved teat end is a result of the tension along the liner length that results from it being stretched within the shell assembly. The degree of stretch and the way in which the liner delivers its force to the teat end depends on the teat shape and the characteristics of the liner and shell. Since there is little that can be done about the variety of teat end shapes within the herd, changes can be made in the degree of callosity or hyperkeratosis by using different liner and shell combinations

Some teat end lesions may be explained by observations that the liner collapses in a fixed plane, and liner pressure can vary with lateral teat position and depth of teat penetration.

Dry split and Calloused teat ends provide a better environment for bacterial survival outside the cow and any multiplication of bacteria will occur in extremely close proximity to the teat orifice. It is perhaps not without reason to suppose that a heavily calloused teat end may also behave differently once infection is forced up the teat orifice and into the udder. In other words, what can be seen outside the teat may imply changes within the teat that are also associated with an increased risk of new infection.

10 Ways to Develop a Success-Oriented Mind-set in dairy farming

1. You have an issue you need to challenge.

You gain confidence by overcoming challenges, but when you fail to put yourself in challenging new situations you assume the outcome won’t be positive, you and your business will be unable to grow.

(Not every day is perfect)

2. Be open to finding a Mentor.

Getting help for self-improvement and business successes is essential. But many Farmers assume that finding a mentor is as simple as asking for help.

A mentorship doesn’t work that way. Instead, professionals need to put themselves in situations where they can build real open and honest relationships with you.

(Talking in snippets does not help)

3. Think of failure as a learning opportunity.

Failure is an outstanding learning opportunity. If you find yourself succeeding frequently, it may be a sign that you aren’t challenging yourself enough.dont be scared of trying again.

Develop a mind-set that views failure as an experience to learn from. We all fail!

4. Cherish your proudest moments.

While it’s important to focus on the present and future instead of the past, preserving a collection of moments you’re proud of can serve as a helpful reminder when you’re feeling down.

(Reflecting on how your parents fed the country in world war two is wonderful) move on!

5. Look for the best advisors and learn from them

Environment plays a significant role in creating our mind-sets. After all, we’re social creatures and are influenced by those around us. Surround yourself with capable individuals who can teach you knew things and who can encourage you to grow personally and professionally.

(Selective drying off to reduce antibiotic use is just one example)

6. Find time to disconnect from stressors.

Disconnect from work-related stress that can make it difficult to adopt a success-oriented mind-set.

(Remember you have a family talk to them )

7. Develop a simple happy morning routine.

Be happy stress free, encourage your staff to be happy and content.

(Going out in the morning moaning about another milk price drop to staff is not positive, there is not a lot you can do about it ,your negativity relays back to your staff)

8. Set time-bound and achievable personal goals.

Take a different approach to goal setting. Create time-bound goals that you know are achievable from the outset. Approaching goal setting from this angle will help to build your confidence, which in turn will reshape your thinking.

(So your severe mastitis treatment rate is 40% aim for 30 %)

9. Listen to your instincts.

Trust your instincts.

( I am feeding my cows tons of corn but yield isn’t going up )

10. Avoid stagnation.

If you feel as though you aren’t learning new things in your personal or professional life, it’s time to change.

Getting up milking cows, moaning about the milk price and just going through the motions is not for you.