The times to remember during milking time
Just like that, summer has come to a close and fall is back on our door step. The end of summer marks the end of worrying about high somatic cell counts, right? Wrong! I'm sure you all know by now that it takes year-round effort to keep your cell count low and your cows mastitis free. When it comes to milk quality and mastitis, we usually spend a lot of time talking about keeping the cow's environment clean, treatment of mastitis, and common mastitis pathogens. Those are all very important, but don't forget about another piece of the milk quality puzzle-milking time. Whether you milk in tie stalls or a parlor, the principles are the same, and they are all about the timing. Keep these "times" in mind for the milking time on your farm.
This is the amount of stimulation time the teat skin surface requires for optimal milk letdown. This can include wiping the teats and cleaning them of any dirt and manure. However, the most powerful milk letdown stimulus is fore stripping each teat. This also allows you to check for any visual symptoms of mastitis (such as milk with flakes, clots, or an off color). If a cow has not letdown her milk, the extra machine pulsation can lead to damaged teats and teat ends. This negatively effects udder health and can lead to a higher incidence of mastitis.
This is the ideal amount of contact time. Contact time is the time required for teat dip to kill bacteria on the teat surfaces. Dirt, manure, and bedding should be cleaned off of each teat before dipping to ensure full skin contact. The key to effective use of teat dipping for mastitis control is consistent and complete teat coverage at every milking. When hastily preparing cows for milking, it can be easy to miss a teat or have incomplete coverage.
An easy way to test yourself (or your employees) is by using the White Towel Test. It's a great option because it offers immediate feedback and can be used for pre- and/or post-dipping. To do the test, wrap a clean paper towel around the base of the teat immediately after it has been dipped. Be sure to blot the dip from the entire teat. Unwrap the towel and open it to display the teat dip pattern. A completely (and correctly) dipped teat will give a full, singular blot on the paper towel. A broken or uneven blot is representative of an improperly dipped teat.
One to two minutes represents the goal time frame for prep lag time. This is the time from the initial contact with the teat surfaces until the milking machine is applied. The prep-lag time for cows being milked 2 times per day should be shorter than cows being milked 3 times per day. In a typical parlor setting, prepping four cows at a time will accomplish proper prep lag time for each cow, given there is consistency in stimulation and contact time. For stall barn application, the use of an end-of-milking indicator is helpful in organizing the milking routine.
This may be one of the most important times to remember. After milking, the teat sphincter takes 30 minutes to close. It also takes 30 minutes for the post-dip to dry. If a cow lies down while the sphincter is still relaxed or before the teat dip has dried, it can lead to bacteria entering the teat and potential infection. Is it estimated that 50% of new contagious mastitis infections can be prevented by complete and consistent post-milking teat dipping and allowing the dip to dry. A good way to keep cows standing for at least 30 minutes after milking is to provide fresh feed (or push feed up) so the cows are motivated to stand and eat after milking.
The ideal pre- and post- milking procedure should be standardized to maintain consistency between all milkers. It should also focus attention on the teat surfaces, include an effective teat dip, and remove all dirt and manure from the teat surface including the teat ends. Most importantly, it should include the times:
- 10-20 seconds of stimulation for milk letdown
- 30 seconds of contact time with teat pre-dip
- 60-120 seconds of prep-lag time
- 30 minutes of keeping cows standing after milking
For additional resources related to milk quality and mastitis management, visit University of Minnesota's Quality Count$.