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Who needs cow prep?

Jeffrey K. Reneau, Professor of Dairy Management

Published in Dairy Star November 2, 2007

Pre-milking cow prep, who needs it? The simple answer to the question is YOU DO! Every dairy should optimize pre-milking cow prep to meet today's milk quality standards. Optimal pre-milking cow prep contributes to increasing milk yield, lowering milking "machine-on" time, and improving udder health. However, these are not the main reasons that pre-milking cow prep will continue to be recommended in the future. High bacteria or SCC in milk reduces shelf life of pasteurized milk. Current shelf life concerns indicate that the main reason future dairies will optimize pre-milking cow prep is to satisfy processor needs and the consumer mandate for milk quality and safety. The pursuit of quality is a winner for everyone - the cow, the farm, the processor and the consumer. Cow health and productivity is maximized, dairy farm efficiency and profitability will be realized, processor product yield and quality is optimized, and consumer confidence and satisfaction is assured.

Milkers, compelled by the speed of pre-milking cow prep rather than thoroughness, often fail to achieve either adequate teat sanitation or consistent milk letdown stimulus. In herds where there is more than one milker, there is usually a great variation in milking routine. All of these factors can contribute to lower milk quality, yield and poor udder health as well as inefficient milking. Most important, remember that whatever bacteria are not removed from the teat surface before machine attachment will end up in the milk and may also create new mammary gland infections.

In the "real world," nothing is perfect; there will be tradeoffs between what is optimal and practical. While there are basic scientific principles that govern what is acceptable cow prep procedure, there is no single procedure that fits all dairy farms. But if your milking routine includes the following 10 factors, you will be on your way to improving milk quality. Every pre-milking cow prep routine should:

You may be thinking, "Reneau, you've been preaching all of this for years. Isn't there anything new?" Yes, there is new research data. During 2007, a group of lactation physiologists in Europe confirmed in very detailed studies that the above 10 factors for ideal cow prep are still true. Some things don't change and the need for excellent pre-milking cow prep is one of those things. As milk quality demands continue to escalate, it is evident that you will need to use consistent and excellent pre-milking cow prep more than ever.

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