As winter arrives and dairy producers adapt their winter routine to care for their herds, producers should also adjust their parlor routines to ensure that udder health, production and operation efficiency don’t skip a beat, GEA said in an announcement.
“Winter is making an earlier appearance in some regions of the country,” said Keith Engel, hygiene and supplies specialist with GEA. “Now is a great time to review your milking system and protocols to ensure your farm, employees and cows are ready.”
GEA provided eight steps to get prepare milking routines and parlor procedures for winter:
1. Evaluate vacuum, pulsation and automatic take-off settings. Teat end health is more at risk during cold and fluctuating weather. It is important to make sure equipment is optimized with the proper settings.
“Match vacuum settings and pulsation to your herd’s production and the liners you’re using,” Engel said. “Make sure automatic take-off settings consistently remove the unit at the proper take-off threshold to avoid milking during periods of low milk flow. Settings out of range for your milking system and herd, combined with cold temperatures can be a recipe for teat end damage, compromising udder health.”
2. Protect parlor entrance and exit areas. Ice and frozen manure in parlor entrance and exit areas can cause slippery walkways for cows, impact parlor flow and put cows and people at risk of injury.
“If ice and frozen manure accumulates, help eliminate the obstacle by scraping the return lane every hour in extreme cold,” Engel said. “Spread lime or sand in cow traffic areas to ensure traction and prevent cow injury.”
3. Implement a winter teat dip. Start using a post-dip with a higher level of emollients to protect, heal and soften teat skin early. High-emollient post-dip should be used as soon as the temperature is near freezing.
“A good winter teat dip with high emollients will remain fluid when temperatures drop well below zero,” Engel said. “It should also include an effective germicide proven to kill mastitis-causing bacteria and protect teat health.”
4. Take care of employees. Make sure the milking team has proper winter gear for protection and gear to keep milking sanitary, such as milking sleeves and gloves. A heat source in the parlor area can also help keep employees comfortable during milking.
“Remind your employees to plan for extra travel time,” Engel said. “Work with your team to adjust their schedules to arrive 30 minutes early for their shift. Have backup milkers in case winter conditions prevent an employee from getting to the farm.”
5. Pay attention to hoses. Having warm water and sanitizer in drop hoses keeps the parlor and milking units clean. Also, watch closely for hose leaks.
“A leaky hose in warm weather might not be a big deal, but in winter, it can quickly become an issue,” Engel said. “Look for leaks in your water hoses, and quickly remedy leaks to help prevent ice buildup in and around the parlor.”
6. Keep the supply room warm. Monitor the temperature of supply and equipment rooms, especially if teat dips and ingredients for teat-scrubbing systems are stored there.
“Try to keep supply and equipment rooms at 50°F or above,” Engel said. “Ensure all doors have proper seals to prevent cold drafts and hygiene products from freezing.”
7. Take caution when warming teat dippers. If teat dippers are warmed in a bucket of hot water, take steps to ensure that the water doesn’t mix with the teat dip by keeping water levels below where the container seals.
“Water in teat dip can reduce dip effectiveness, increasing the chance for mastitis-causing pathogens to spread,” Engel said.
8. Measure the water temperature. Ensure that the amount of hot water available on a dairy is adequate by monitoring wash cycles. When it’s cold, hot water can drop by 10°F or more than in other seasons.
“The water draining temperature from a [clean-in-place] system should be 120°F or higher,” Engel said. “By ensuring there is enough hot water for the system, you can be confident it is helping maintain proper hygiene.”