Recently, I was returning home from two farm visits at which I discovered that both farms had been dutifully replacing their rubber teat cup liners every twelve months, just as they had done for many years.
While I was contemplating liner change intervals in the car, I passed a car on the side of the road accompanied by a police car with lights flashing.
Because the traffic was slow, I observed the driver and the policeman having what appeared to be an animated discussion whilst pointing to what were obviously very bald tyres on the car.
A wide variety of milking machine faults can result from extended use.
"Wear & tear" plus age can cause gradual changes in performance.
Because these changes are often quite subtle and occur over a period of time, they can often be difficult to notice, even though they are occuring right in front of you.
Milking plants that average 4 hours running time per day will clock up 1460 working hours in a year.
At a recent milking time visit to a particularly high producing herd, we noticed mean claw vacuums during our milking time testing often getting as low as 30 – 32 kPa during peak milk flow, despite the system vacuum being 44.5 kPa.
Countdown Downunder recommends mean claw vacuums between 36 and 42 kPa during peak milk flow, so we were keen to understand better what was happening at this herd.
This was an ideal opportunity to use “Daisy”, our artificial udder, to do some true “wet testing” of the machines.
Several of our dairy regions are now very wet, and this cold, wet, & often windy weather can quickly cause teat skin to become dry, cracked and chapped.
Dry, cracked teat skin significantly increases the risk of mastitis due to the cracks in the skin harbouring more bacteria, and it also causes significant changes in milking machine performance.
Once teats are coated with dried mud, the teat spray cannot get through to kill the bugs in the cracked skin underneath, and neither does the emollient get through to lubricate and moisturise the skin properly. Thus the skin just dries out more and more, and a self-worsening cycle has begun!
Two core principles behind mastitis control are to minimise the number of bacteria on teat skin and to maximise & maintain teat end health.
Whilst pre-milking teat preparation is not routinely used in most Australian herds, there is good evidence that targeted use can be of significant benefit.
In situations where there is excessive exposure of teats to mud and/or faecal material, the introduction of a pre-milking wash & dry routine can significantly reduce the number of bacteria on the teat surface and hence the risk of mastitis.
Removal of this contamination also allows the teat disinfectant to get to the skin, maximising the chances of both killing bacteria and getting emollient to the skin surface to improve teat skin health.
Remember that "gold" standard is to have cups going onto clean, dry teats after the cow has had a milk let-down.
An issue on the horizon for many dairy farmers is an expected rise in the cost of iodine teat disinfectants due to a rise in the cost of raw materials.
Whilst the extent of the price rise may be variable, some manufacturers have indicated that the price of a "ready-to-use" iodine based teat disinfectant may rise by about $70 for a 200 litre container over the next few months.
This would increase the cost of teat disinfection by about 0.7 cents/dose - for a 300 cow herd, that is about $2 per milking.
What are the options or alternatives?