The production of quality milk is an important part of any dairy operation.
It increases farmer’s profitability and has many benefits. Research has found the importance of lowering the somatic cell count (SCC) in a herd.
Each time the SCC is cut into half, the average production increases by 0.6 kg milk per cow per day.
Thus, lowering a herd’s SCC from 400,000 to 100,000, increases milk production of the herd by 1.3 kg per cow per day.Dairy industry’s demand for quality milk has made it easier to get dairy farmers involved.
Most dairy plants are now offering cash premiums for lower SCC milk. The farmers not only get more milk, but a higher price as well for better quality milk.
Quality milk can be obtained approached by looking at the “Mastitis Triangle.” It includes looking at the total picture such as cows and their environment, the man and his milking procedures, and the milking equipment and its function. This can help improve milk quality.
To solve a problem, one must find the cause behind it.. If one doesn’t look at the total triangle and something is overlooked the problem cannot be solved completely.
When investigating a mastitis situation, one should be sure to look at more than the SCC. A check of the amount of clinical mastitis in the herd, the milk out times, and production of the herd is a must. Many herds have artificially low SCC because the bad cows are not going into the tank.
Milking procedures: One of the most challenging parts of quality milk production is fine tuning of the dairy farmers’ milking procedures. Milking procedures are usually responsible for mastitis in the herd.
A milk time evaluation is essential to help the dairy farmers to fine tune milking practices. Many farmers are taking all necessary steps, but not in proper order to get the maximum benefit. Once the farmer implements proper milking habits, there is a significant improvement in milk quality.
Milking habits: These practices include getting the teat cleaned, dried, and properly stimulated before milking. The routine that has been found to be the most effective in producing quality milk is as follows.
The first step is to fore-strip each teat three times. Fore-stripping is critical to the production of quality milk and fast milking times. Recent research shows that stripping the teats can yield five to seven per cent more milk. Not only there is an increase in milk yield, but also faster milking.
The dairy farmers are also likely to identify abnormal milk. Fore-stripping sends the strongest signal to cow’s brain to let down her milk. Proper stimulation really pays.
After fore-stripping, proper sanitisation of the teat surface is a must. This can be done by washing the teats with water by an udder wash or pre-dipping. It has been found that pre-dipping is better than any other approach. Water is the biggest enemy of farmer. Bacteria cannot walk, but it can swim. Whenever water is used, there is a definite chance for increased environmental mastitis.
Pre-dipping is an effective step in mastitis control. Dairy farmer must always select an approved product to pre-dip with. In order to get the biggest impact from pre-dipping, two things must take care of. The pre-dip must cover 75 pr cent of the teat surface and it must stay on the teat for a minimum of 20 to 30 seconds.
To get full benefit from pre-dipping, these two rules have to be followed. The new step which is strongly supported is the use of milking gloves.
Research has shown significant decrease in bacteria numbers when gloves are worn. By wearing gloves, the milking practices are just fine tuned with chances of producing quality milk increased.
Drying the teats with individual paper or cloth towels is the most important step. Drying does more to lower SCC and reduce clinical mastitis than the other steps.
The teat and teat end must be wiped clean and dry. The drying towel removes most bacteria from the teat. Once the teat has been dried, it should not be touched with hands again.
Timing is very important to milking speed and milk yield. Ideally, the units should be attached to the teats 45 to 90 seconds after stripping. If the timing is delayed, there would be longer milking times and less milk yield.
Many farms have inadequate timing which creates over milking before milk let down. Often times parlour farms set their automation on manual until let down occur. This is not acceptable and the solution is better timing. In parlours, usually farmers work in groups of three or four cows. This helps optimise timing and maximise output.
The unit must be attached to the teat with as little air admission as possible. Letting in too much air is very irritating for the teats and will increase the level of environmental mastitis.
Once the unit is attached, a few seconds should be taken to properly align the unit on each cow so that the cow is milked rapidly and completely with minimum liner slip. Good unit alignment is important in both stanchion barns and parlours.
Once the unit is removed by shutting off the vacuum, the teats must be immediately dipped with teat dip. Teat dipping is still one of the most important steps. The key is that the farmer is using a quality teat dip with research data showing efficacy. Coverage is the most important part of teat dipping.
A minimum of 75 per cent of the teat must be covered with dip. The primary reason for teat dipping is to replace milk film with a layer of germicide after milking.
If the milk film is not removed, the left food on the teats will grow more bacteria. It is also important to start each milking with a clean teat dipper containing fresh dip. The teats must be adequately covered with dip to prevent mastitis.
Environment: Looking at the cow and the environment around is most often forgotten. The environment is probably second in importance only to milking procedures.
It is needed to look at where the cow is being milked, where she is housed, and how she gets back and forth between these areas. Many mastitis problems come from the environment. Keeping the cows clean, dry, and comfortable 24 hours a day is a key factor in mastitis control.
Housing must be kept clean and dry 24 hours. The lanes to and from the pastures or dry lots must be free of mud holes which cause many coliform problems. Managing coliform problems will stop other problems.
Ventilation is critical. Winter is not a problem for dairy farmers, rather controlling environment during the heat of summer is difficult.
Keeping cows udders clean can really reduce the level of clinical mastitis and improve milk quality. Removing udder hair and trimming or docking tails help to keep udders clean and thus lead to improved milk quality.
Docking tails keeps the cows and facilities clean. Clipping udders is probably one of the most important steps in producing quality milk. It is a forgotten step in mastitis control.
The problem is that no one likes clipping udders. It takes a great deal of time and the cows usually object to the procedure. The farmers now flame the udders three to four times a year rather than not doing it at all.
Milking equipment: Milking equipment is the most used and most abused equipment on any dairy farm. Veterinarians must at least understand the basic functioning of milking equipment.
The milk system must be looked at from not only a mastitis stand point, but also a performance stand point. Milking equipment has more effect on production than it does on mastitis.
A very large percentage of milking equipment used does have a negative effect on production. Many herds see dramatic increases in production when milking systems are upgraded as well as a decrease in milking time. It is found that the longer it takes to milk a cow, the less milk is obtained.
The shorter the machine time, the less chance for infection too.
The milking system needs to be properly evaluated on a regular basis. The only correct way to test a milking machine is at milking time so the cows can be tested under full load.
This dynamic testing allows you to find problems that cannot be discovered any other way. Having a good independent person test, the milking equipment is often best. The milking machine is the most important machine on the farm and should be kept well maintained and fine tuned.
Bulk tank culturing is an excellent way to monitor a herd on a routine basis.
Bulk tank culturing gives a way to look at a bacterial survey of the whole herd quickly and economically and is an important part of a total farm visit. This often provides convincing support for the observations and recommendations made.
Getting involved in quality milk production is easy. All that is needed is a commitment to get involved. An attitude for quality is an attitude for profit.