A Proper Milking Routine: The Key to Quality Milk
A Proper Milking Routine: The Key to Quality Milk

Andrew P. Johnson
Total Herd Management Services, Inc.
Seymour, Wisconsin

    The most important factor in milking is consistency of the milking routine.

    The ideal lag time from the start of the milking routine to unit attachment is 60 seconds. A quick and easy way to determine if the proper lag time has existed is to examine the teats prior to unit attachment. If the teats are swollen with milk, you know the stimulation and lag time are good. When the teats are empty, you know the units are being applied too soon and there is a greater chance of udder health problems and longer milking times.

    Every milking routine should start by having the milkers wear milking gloves. Hands are a common source of Staph aureus, which is a common contagious bacterium affecting most farms. Wearing gloves is important. However, keeping the gloves clean is equally important. Gloves can be cleaned periodically by dipping them in a bucket of warm water and sanitizer or by using automatic faucets to clean them in a parlor.

    Every milking routine must properly sanitize the teat skin and teat end. There are many different ways to accomplish this, however, most dairies are now using predip to sanitize the teats. In order to make predipping more successful, two things must happen. The predip must cover the entire surface of the teat that will be inside the teat cup during milking, and be on the teat long enough to kill the bacteria. My goal is to have 75-90% of the teat surface covered with predip and have it on the teat for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.

    Fore-stripping is a critical step in the production of quality milk. You can afford to spend a few more seconds prepping a cow because the resulting shorter milking time will more than offset it. My experience has shown that herds that fore-strip will have faster milking, lower SCC, and actually get more milk production. Forestripping should be done either as the first step prior to predipping or immediately after predipping.

    The most important step in both the cleaning and stimulation of the teat is drying. The drying towel removes most bacteria from the teat and provides extra stimulation to the teats. The secret to successful drying is to make sure the teat end is wiped dry. If the teat end is not properly cleaned, the dairy will have more problems with environmental mastitis. When wiping the teats dry, the milkers must make an actual pass across the teat end. If the milkers wipe the teats dry in a circular motion, it is very easy to wipe the teat ends dry without spending any additional time.

    Once the teats have been properly cleaned, the units need to be put on the teats with as little air admission as possible. The more air that is leaked in during attachment, the more irritation there is to the udder, and milk quality can suffer. If milkers are properly trained, 95 out of 100 teats should have the teat cups put on without any audible air leaks.

    After proper unit attachment, properly align the unit on the udder. The key is to make sure the unit hangs squarely on the udder so liner slip is minimized. Poor unit attachment is a common cause of poor milkouts and liner slip.

    All units need to come off when the cow is done milking. Automatic take offs (ATO) bring consistency to milking regardless of who does the milking. The key is to make sure the ATO�s are properly set so they come off when the cow is done milking and do not over milk the cows. The best way for you to evaluate whether cows are being properly milked out is to do strip yields immediately after the cow is milked out. Take a kitchen measuring cup and strip out all the milk left in the udder. If there is less than 250 ml of milk evenly distributed in the udder, the cow is milked out.

    Once the units are removed from the cow, dip with an effective teat dip. My idea of proper teat dipping is a teat that has 75-90% coverage on the entire teat. Since the milking machine is one of the best washing machines ever built, the teats are bathed with milk during the milking process. The key reason to teat dip is to remove the milk film left on the teat after the machine comes off.

    An excellent way to monitor a good milking routine on a dairy is to look at the milk filters after milking. If the filters are dirty, it is clear that teats are not being properly cleaned. If the filters are full of garget, it is clear clinical (mastitic) milk is being missed. If there is lots of bedding on the filter, there may be too many fall offs or teats are not being properly cleaned.
    Once the milking routine has been properly evaluated and a new routine has been developed, the new routine should be typed up and a copy given to every employee. Post the milking routine in the parlor or milk house so people are reminded of what is expected of them. I have found that implementing a new milking routine is most successful when everyone who milks cows is given a chance to discuss the changes and give their input. Keeping everyone involved is the secret to milk quality success.

    A good milking routine is the key factor in the production of quality milk. If the right routine is implemented on any dairy operation, the farm should milk cows faster, get more milk, have better milk quality, and be more profitable.

--Abstracted from National Mastitis Council Proceedings, Feb. 2000, pp. 123-126. ©