“Milking is so routine, frankly, we don’t even think about it. It just happens,” said Phil Durst, Michigan State University Extension.
But during his presentation at the Minnesota Dairy Health Conference held in St. Paul, Minn., Durst shared data unearthed by their Quality Milk Alliance that proves milking routines must stay top of mind. He shared these goals for udder preparation before milking:
1. A minimum of 10 seconds of physical stimulation on teats.
2. A lag time of 60 to 120 seconds before units are attached.
3. A parlor routine that consistently accomplishes 1 and 2 for the first animal and the last animal in the herd.
4. Milking units that come off with approximately 1/2 to 1 cup of milk still in the udder.
Let’s take a closer look at teat stimulation and lag time before attachment.
In a study of 64 farms, 34 percent experienced biphasic milking in more than 30 percent of the cows. Biphasic milking results when oxytocin has not reached the mammary cells at the time the unit is attached. In other words, it is a delayed start of peak milk flow. Durst said the goal is to have less than 10 percent of cows experience biphasic milking.
The impacts from biphasic milking are uncomfortable cows, and congestion in the teat during vacuum without milk flow changes the teat in ways we don’t even fully understand yet. Durst added that biphasic milking can cause teat end roughness, and it has the potential to reduce milk yield.
In one study, cows that let their milk down within 30 seconds of unit attachment were considered to have no biphasic milking. When there was a 30 to 59 second lag time, milk production was reduced 4 pounds in that milking. If time to milk let-down was over 60 seconds, there was a 6.5-pound decline in milk yield. Durst shared that research this summer will take a look at the effects over multiple milkings.
“Are we leaving milk behind?” Durst asked. “And what happens to that milk? Is the cow going to leak in the stall?”
Durst explained that biphasic milking occurs when there is less total teat stimulation time. “We cut corners on stimulation. We cut corners on lag time,” he said.
Why do these shortcuts take place? “Before we assume it’s the protocol, we have to decide if the protocol is actually followed,” Durst said. He noted that sometimes the issue is adherence to the protocol, or deviation from the protocol when there are too few or too many people in the parlor.
He also highlighted the importance of training and the need for continued education.
“There is no end to employee training,” Durst said.