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All about Milking machines

All about Milking machines

In this ‘digital’ era, you have noted everything around you is taking new operation dimensions. Dairy farming not left behind, more farms are adopting the use of milking machines for milk harvesting as a result of growing health and hygiene concerns among consumers. Good milking techniques also requires that the cow remain comfortable and relaxed over the milking period, a plus that farms which use milking machines have over traditional hand milk practitioners. In spite of this, the effectiveness of these type of milking machine mainly used in our dairy farms, lies on their efficient functioning, cleaning process and correct application and removal.

Checkout components

Proper management of milking machines requires that you understand the parts well to ease detaching and cleaning. Routine maintenance or cleaning of mechanical parts and rubber ware components of the machine form the basis of their effective functioning. This calls for habitual examination of the machines in daily, weekly and general regular basis. Daily checks require that you examine the air vents on the cluster for any blockages. Blocked vents eventually lead to slow or incomplete milking and make it difficult in removing clusters. Carefully remove debris but avoid using equipment that may cause holes to enlarge. Also check the milk vacuum and listen to all pulsators for regular and intermittent sounds. Watch that the milk entering the enclosed receiving churn should flow evenly. For cow factors, check on the cow behavior; does she feel nervous or just comfortable when teat cups are applied or removed from the teats? Try to feel for any swellings at the top, middle or end of the teats. Search for cracking or sores made on the teat canals by the machine. Also check for completeness of milking. Weekly checks mainly lie on examining the filters, pulsator airlines and liners. Check for mouthpiece cracks, splits or distortion. Additional regularly checks requires monitor for teat cup slips from teats regardless of the udder conformation. More teat cup slips means incorrect mounting onto the teats. Note the average time of milking; milking machines adjusted correctly take 7 minutes on average, but this may vary depending on the amount of milk a cow produces.

A routine maintenance demands that teat cup liners be changed regularly, with every 4-6 month most recommended by manufactures as the replacement period. Since liners are the parts of the machine that get into direct contact with the cow during flexing and squeezing of the teat, they lose tension, absorb milk fat and hold bacteria with time. The tension lost with time is sufficient enough to cause incomplete milking, expose the cow to increased teat end damage and spread bacteria even faster.

Equipment cleaning and sanitizing

Cleaning ensures milk residue and dirt are removed from the equipment while sanitizing removes bacteria from already cleaned surfaces. Both practices minimize bacterial contamination and spread on the machines. To clean, first detach the necessary parts then remove all loose debri or dirt and rinse the machine with warm water. Follow by hot washing using detergent solution to clear surface deposits then rinse with cold water. Finally apply a sanitizer especially to surfaces for contact with the cow and allow to dry under shade with sufficient flow of air.

Application and removal

First, clean and dry the teats of the cow before attaching any part of the machine to your cow.  Dirty and wet teats increase the risk of mastitis infection and contaminate milk with bacteria. Then just before you mount the teat cups, check for mastitis. Gently squeeze each teat for the first milk quirts and check against a strip cup for clots or abnormal milk colour. Ideally, teat disinfection before attaching the milking machine can be done to help reduce mastitis that may result from environmental contamination. If at all this is the case, use sanitizers approved for pre-milking disinfection. When the teats appear ‘filled with milk’ gently mount the teat cups. This appearance results from stimulation of milk let-down effect and is the best time to fix the machine. During milking, monitor for any air leakage through the teat cups. Adjust the teat cups to hang over the claw correctly to arrest leakages. Less flow of milk into the collection churn is an indication of milk let-down coming to an end. At this time, cut the vacuum to the cluster to release the teat cup. Pulling off without cutting the vacuum is not advised as it encourages damage of teats. After completely detaching the machine from the animal, follow by hand milking to ensure milking is done completely. Thereafter disinfect each teat using teat dip method. Teat dips include bacteria killing active ingredients and an emollient that keeps the skin of the teats healthy and prevents them from cracking. To conclude, be warned that cleaning these machines may not be easy and careless detaching of parts may cause damage, if not very sure, always contact where you sourced them from to help in maintenance and cleaning services.

Why use machines to milk

Generally, milking machines helps utilize the least time possible for milking. This is however possible if they are in correct functioning condition. Due to their fast work rate that see them milk cows under 10 minutes, many cows can be milked fast, taking advantage to extract more from the active milk let-down duration. With these machines, there is little milk spillage, no environmental contamination and guaranteed cleanliness provided the equipment is thoroughly cleaned. There is also less or no damage on teats. Sometimes use of hand milking can be painful depending on the milk man. Long nails also cause cuts on teats.  Milking machines make the cows feel more confident, calm and feel relaxed for free milk let-down. Milking machines makes dairy farming easy, enjoyable and can be bought from companies that supply and maintain dairy equipment such as De Laval.