A change in your milking system vacuum level can result in changes to milking performance that you might readily notice - extra cup slip, clusters that do not drop off as easily at cup removal, unsettled cows, swollen or discoloured teats after cup removal, etc.
Sometimes it might require a significant change in the vacuum to cause some or all of these signs in your milking system, but damage is actually likely to be occurring before the change reaches the stage where you see these signs.
In fact, we regularly see farms where an unnoticed change of only 1 or 2 kPa in the system vacuum level has had a significant impact on teat condition, greatly increasing the risk of mastitis, but without causing any of the above more obvious signs!
At Dairy Focus, we use milking time testing of the machines, milking time observations of the cows, and teat scoring to determine the ideal vacuum level for a particular herd and system.
Recently, at a couple of our programmed farm visits we discovered that vacuum levels that had previously been set at the ideal level for the farm had unknowingly changed from this ideal level. On most of these farms, that effect was immediately evident in our teat scoring, and on a couple of the farms, mastitis levels had also started to increase.
These relatively small changes in vacuum are often difficult to notice from one milking to the next and can be very hard to define on the dial of a typical analogue gauge - and if you are in the shed every day, it is even more difficult to notice a small change!
How can we avoid these risks?
It is possible to install monitoring equipment that will alert the operator to changes in vacuum, but these systems are relatively expensive.
An alternative is to install a digital vacuum gauge in a highly visible position and then to ensure that it becomes part of the milking routine to check the gauge at every milking, commonly immediately after start up.
This is an example of an installation clearly showing the vacuum level, and also that the vacuum in this dairy has started to "creep" away from the ideal level which has been recorded on the wall below the gauge.
These installations are simple, relatively inexpensive and can help to prevent a change in your vacuum causing you costly increases in mastitis risk and clinical cases.
For more information, call the office and talk to Rob about any queries you may have.