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September and October 2014


Milking Routines: the Economics of getting it right

It could be argued that the milking period is the most important part of the day, so it is essential to get things right for both productivity and welfare as well as economic reasons.

With cows coming in from their summer at pasture, autumn is the ideal time to take a fresh look at your milking routines on the farm and iron out any issues, be they mastitis problems or record keeping etc for the period ahead.

Good record keeping and communication between staff are essential to the dairy farm business in order to:

  • Minimise losses from waste milk, e.g.  antibiotic failures, milk taint, high SCC
  • Planning for mastitis and SCC control, fertility and feeding

It is important that all dairy staff be they part of a large shift team or small family enterprise, know and understand the role of clear, concise and obvious communication and that all happenings that have a possible further outcome are noted and left in a place that the team members and the next shift can readily access.


Environmental Mastitis FACTSHEET

Four factors which are worth further consideration / training for staff –

  1. Understand the principles of milking machine mechanics and milking cow physiology
  2. Knowledge of best practice for milking routine and milking machine maintenance
  3. Knowledge of best practice for controlling mastitis and somatic cell counts
  4. Implement suitable recording systems and lines of communication between staff

Cow Grazing (Jo)When to Milk

Milking interval is usually determined by conditions on farm and labour availability. Many farms adopt a 10-14 hours milking interval or, increasingly, 12-12 hours. Research has shown that twelve hour intervals result in higher lactation yields which suggests that equal intervals are a more efficient way of milking. Extending the milking interval over 14 hours leads to a yield penalty of 5%, increasing as the interval increases.

Labour availability and cost can also determine how many times a day milking takes place. Twice daily milking is the most common. More frequent milking gives yield benefits of up to 15% (although bear in mind that overall costs may not make three times per day milking economic):

  • Milking three times a day increases milk production by 5-15%
  • Lactation becomes more persistent and prolonged

The reason for this is unclear but it is thought that increased milking results in greater release of prolactin from the pituitary gland, which may lead to the production of more secretory tissue in the udder and a reduction in the chemical feedback inhibitor.

Frequent milking has both long term and short term effects. In the short term, it leads to increased activity in the milk secreting cells while in the long term it leads to an increase in the actual number of milk secreting cells.

Did you know that it takes about 60-90 seconds for milk let-down to happen after pressure has been applied to the teat, though this time varies between different cows, age of cow and stage of lactation and can also be affected by a cow being fearful, stressed, in pain or discomfort.


Good standards of hygiene in the parlour are also imperative and important to get staff to adhere to. Environmental infections may become established during milking time by using poorly cleansed kit. The only reservoir of infection for environmental mastitis is in the environment; this differs from contagious or ‘cow associated’ mastitis where the major reservoir of infection is inside the udder of infected cows who are effectively acting as carriers.

At milking time, depending on the standard of environmental hygiene achieved on a farm, bacteria will be present to variable degrees on the teat skin as the cows come into the parlour to be milked. These organisms may invade the udder during milking, particularly when milk flow away from the udder is inefficient, therefore a clearly defined cleansing and hygiene procedure both for the cow and milking equipment are essential in keeping this costly condition at bay to avoid:

  • Reduced yield during acute infection
  • Treatment costs
  • Milk withdrawal
  • Permanently reduced yield in chronically affected cows
  • Sick/ dead cows
  • Forced culls

Whilst many of the principles of successful milking routines seem basic, a change in staff or ocurence in mastitis problems can reduce productivity and welfare significantly.  FarmSkills offer a range of milking routine and environmental mastitis training workshops which can be attended by individual staff members, or held on farm to train your entire team, focussing on specific issues in your routine.

FarmSkills Milking Routines best practice guide (456x640)

Our workshops cover –

Environmental Mastitis

  1. Define and detect mastitis
  2. Name the principal environmental mastitis pathogens
  3. Understand the balance between cow defences and the challenge from most common mastitis pathogens
  4. Describe the impact of environmental conditions on mastitis rates
  5. Outline the key areas of control
  6. Calculate the costs associated with mastitis including welfare

Milking Routines

  1. Recognise the importance of milking on dairy enterprise economics
  2. Understand the principles of milking machine mechanics and milking cow physiology
  3. Adopt best practice for milking routine and milking machine maintenance and know what to do in case of machine dysfunction
  4. Adopt best practice for controlling mastitis and somatic cell counts
  5. Implement suitable recording systems

FarmSkills workshops are practical, vet led and held on farm so you and your staff are equipped with the skills and knowledge to implement your learning back on farm.  All our workshops are listed on our website and cover a range of dairy, beef, sheep, pig and poultry topics.  For further information on what we offer and how we can help contact the team on 01765 608489.Чехунов Денис Николаевичлобановский харьков классанализ семантического ядрапродвижение сми на рынкеtravel russia by trainсковородки нева