Milk On! The Significance of Adopting the Right Methods in the Process of Milking

“Milk does not grow in containers on the shelves of your local grocery store. Milk is produced by farmers”

-Joe Kleinsasser, farming enthusiast and multi-commodity crop and livestock family farm owner

Milking is not a process as easy as meets the eye, but in fact involves several complex processes that ensure the optimal production of milk among cattle. The purpose of these steps is to elicit ideal milk let down, minimise the chances of a cow contracting mastitis organisms during milking, and efficient milk removal.


Milker Preparation

The hands of a person milking cows can become contaminated with mastitis-causing pathogens- either from handling dirty equipment or from contact with contaminated milk from infected cows. Today, most milking operations will have the milkers wear disposable latex gloves, which are replaced periodically through the milking process.


Cleaning the Teats

The teats are prepared by thoroughly cleaning the teat, involved with the use of some solution that removes dirt and provides sanitation to the teat skin. Many people now use a pre-milking germicide dip solution called a per-dip. This wets the teat, provides sufficient moisture to wipe off the teat and get it clean, sanitising the teat in the process. The act of massaging the teats wiping them off is also stimulates the oxytocin release which causes the ejection of milk. It is important to avoid getting the udder wet. Use of spray hoses to spray the germicide onto the teats can also get the udder hair wet. Long udder hair is undesirable, and many dairy producers remove the udder hair by clipping udders or by singeing the hair with a flame.


Drying the Teats

Using a separate dry towel to wipe off and dry the teats thoroughly is a crucial step in cattle hygiene. It is particularly important to get the entire teats and tip of the teat clean. The use of sponges is discouraged because it can harbour mastitis-causing pathogens. Also, reuse of towels between cattle can spread these pathogens from cow to cow. Thus, use of individual towels is highly recommended so that each cow is separately dried.


Foremilk Stripping

Several squirts of milk are removed from each quarter into a strip cup, where the white flakes or clots in the milk will be collected, showing up against the black screen on the strip cup’s top. Alternatively, milk is stropped onto the floor under the cow and observed for flakes or clots. Cows with flakes or clots in their milk probably have some form of mastitis. This is the most common means of identifying clinical mastitis.


Application of the Machine

The milking machine should be applied within one minute of the initial wiping of the teats to take maximum advantage of the milk let-down response. The milker is required to hold the claw in one hand, turn the vacuum on, administering teat cups as efficiently as possible, adjusting the machine so it hangs straight down from the cow. Teat cups that ride up excessively can cause irritation to the teat lining, and thus needs to be adjusted as required.


Machine- on time

It takes about just five minutes for the cow to release all the milk. The milking machine senses that the udder has been emptied of all the milk, and automatically shuts off. The milker carefully removes the suction cups, and then wipes down the udder again with a mild iodine solution to protect the udder when the cow goes back into the barn or field.

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