Dairy Farmers Must Ensure Parlours Are Tested Correctly

The importance of a dynamic test carried out by a qualified Parlour Safe accredited professional, to fully assess your parlour and milking routine has never been so important as we head into 2019 amid more volatility in the marketplace.

According to John Baines, ex Fullwood Technical Director, ensuring your parlour fulfils its potential is a key factor in efficient milk production and profitability:

“Effective and efficient milking is realised through the interaction of the cow, the person and the machine.  Only by carrying out a full assessment of the machine, the way it is being used during milking, together with a thorough evaluation of cow responses and the staff– including the milking and cleaning routines – will you have the sufficient information on which to make meaningful changes. A static test simply will not do for overall milking practice assessment.

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“A dynamic test is a small investment and can safeguard you against many significant issues related to hygiene, health and production. Once you have the report – use it. Data from the test provides you with valuable information to make adjustments to your management for more efficient milk production. Utilise it – it’s surprising how very small changes can have noticeable improvements.

Modest changes in the order of teat preparation, to improve let down time, or improvements in cluster position can improve milk out and reduce cup on time. “Adrenaline release within half an hour before milking interferes with the normal let-down response so it’s crucial this is a stress-free time.   If you want to get the best out of your milking machine, aim to provide a calm, consistent and comfortable environment for the herd.

John stresses the focus that needs to be on achieving milk let down, and the preparation required to achieve this, effectively. “Low or no flow milking is detrimental to teat condition and can increase mastitis risk.  Is the prep routine completed within 60-90 seconds? If not, you are compromising the condition of the teat orifice which is known to result in a higher mastitis incidence. A dynamic test will assess your routine timings and teat cleaning. It’s important to review these methods and ensure they are effective – for let-down, cleanliness and animal health.

“Teats should be clean before teatcup attachment.  Milk quality reports shows that farms with strict and consistent teat cleaning protocols have better results.  Research also shows that even visually clean teats of housed cows will be contributing many more bacteria compared with those of grazing cows.

“Some say clean selectively, but clean is an ambiguous standard and can be variable with different staff. Using a visual guide will help all staff achieve a consistent level of cleanliness so take photos and use as a training tool.  The farms which achieve consistently low bactoscans are invariably implementing a rigorous teat cleaning regime.

“Post milking teat disinfection is one of the most important parts of the milking routine.  In addition to the disinfecting action, it is an essential way of maintaining good, clean skin condition.  Dry, cracked or wrinkled are much more difficult to clean.

“Cow behaviour and responses offer useful information for you and your tester. Watching cow flow, comfort and temperament gives important pointers for improving parlour efficiency.

“You also need to look at the individual cows and see if cluster attachment and alignment is adequate.   Failure to do so results in uneven and incomplete milking.

Cow teat condition provides a very useful insight into the effectiveness of milking routine and the action of the milking machine.  The dynamic test should incorporate an assessment of a representative proportion of cows’ teats for both short- and long-term effects. Short term effects include swelling, discolouration and ringing.  Longer term effects include orifice roughness and skin lesions making these harder to clean, are less capable of closing effectively after milking and hence have a higher risk of infection.

“Milk flow rate and profile can provide a very useful indication as to the effectiveness of pre-milking stimulation and let down.  A useful metric is that more than 50% of total yield should be achieved within two minutes of teatcup attachment.

“There are some simple steps that every dairy farmer can implement. Use a Parlour Safe accredited technician to test the parlour –   these technicians are professionally trained to advise you on all aspects and offer valuable information on areas such as hygiene, cow behaviour, infrastructure and prep routine.

“Educate yourself and your staff on best milking practice – many colleges now offer training, the AHDB Dairy has a wealth of information as well some of the farm suppliers. Make sure you buy quality cleaning products and use them as instructed – cutting corners here can have significant consequences in terms of milk quality – and ultimately affects the price you receive from your milk.”

Ruth Bailey, Chief Executive, MEA, adds, “The MEA continue to expand their Parlour Safe accredited courses in recognition of the growing need for a professional standard of dynamic testing in the dairy industry. Having these high standards not only reassures dairy farmers that they have a professional service on farm, but also demonstrates the industry’s willingness to adopt world class practices for milk production in the UK.”