Profitability of a dairy farm has a direct connection with the wellbeing of the animals. Adoption of an efficient and recommended milking technique is very important in any dairy farming enterprise. The continuous implementation of a proper milking routine results in higher good quality milk, fewer udder problems, longer productive life expectancy and reduced milking time. All the above mentioned factors contribute to a higher profit margin per cow. Good milking is actually a skill that is mainly learned through practical experience. However, science has it role in every field. Harmonious interaction between milker and cow is of great importance with regard to the amount of milk that a cow produces and hence lead to the improved profits. A good milker develops a routine that is followed almost every day. However, it is not always necessary that if the milking habits are good, results will be good. Various farm conditions and factors determine the choice of milking being applied in the farm i.e., hand or machine milking. The milker should be well aware of basic milk secretion and udder conformation of the dairy animal. A thorough understanding of milk production ology along with the awareness with functional aspects of milking machine is essential to remove whole milk from the udder. Evacuating whole milk from udder is essential for proper health of any dairy animal.
Different Milking Techniques
Hand and machine milking are the two broad techniques adopted in India. Within each group, different approaches may be applied, be it in hand milking or machine milking. Varied techniques have been developed in machine milking with changed pressures-holding time combinations. Various aspects of hand and machine milking are briefly discussed below:
Cows are generally milked from the left side. After let down of milk, the milker begins milking teats either crosswise or forequarters together followed by the hindquarters or teats appearing most distended milked. The first few streams of foremilk from each teat needs to be poured on strip cup to check for any gross abnormality. This also removes any dirt (if present) from the teat canal and gives the milker a chance to detect mastitis and other problems in milk. Milking is done by stripping or full hand method:
- Stripping is done by tightly grasping the teat between the thumb & forefinger and drawing it down the length of the teat. At the same time, pressure is applied on the teat to cause the milk to flow down in a stream.
- Full Hand milking/ Fisting involves grasping the teat with the five fingers and pressing it against the palm. The teat is compressed and relaxed alternatively and rapidly thus this method removes milk much quicker than stripping as there is no loss of time in changing the position of the hand. Moreover, full hand method is superior to stripping as it stimulates the natural suckling process of the calf.
Many milkers during milking tend to bend their thumb against the teat which is known as knuckling. It should always be avoided to prevent injuries to the teat tissues. Thus milking should always be done with full hand unless the teats are too small or towards the end of the milking process.
2. Machine Milking
Milking machines are capable of milking cows quickly and efficiently without causing injury to udder provided they are properly installed, maintained in excellent operating conditions and used properly. The milking machine performs two basic functions i.e.
- It opens the streak canal through the mechanism of partial vacuum, allowing the milk to flow out of the teat cistern through a line to a receiving container.
- It massages the teat that prevents congestion of blood and lymph in the teat.
Advantages of machine milking
- It is easy to operate, economic in larger farms, time-saving (milks 1.5 litres to 2 litres per minute).
- It is very hygienic and all the milk can be removed from the udder.
- The machine is easily adaptable and gives a suckling feeling to the cow. It also avoids pain in the udder as well as leakage of milk.
Main features of good hand and machine milking are
- Regular and good milking routine under optimal conditions will result in high milk yields.
- The quality of the milk produced must be up to the highest hygienic standards.
- The risk of udder infection must be reduced to an absolute minimum.
- The physical and mental effort required from the milker should be acceptable and he should perform his duties within an appropriate environment.
The term milking management refers to all the activities done before and after milking that is eventually aimed at improving the quality or quantity aspects of milk obtained from the dairy animals. Following points stand out in milking management that need to be stressed for effective milking management activities:
Feeding of concentrates
Feeding concentrates appears to result in a strongly conditioned reflex in milk letdown. Mostly in rural areas, the milking procedure is preceded by feeding the animals for the easy letdown of milk and to keep the animal busy. Providing the animal with its favourite food that is easily palatable also helps in efficient letdown and it also helps to prevent the vice of kicking in animals. Furthermore, the cows are conditioned to milking reflex once the feed is placed before it. However, a strong recommendation is made not to feed substances with volatile odours during milking. This is done to prevent milk from taking obnoxious feed odours in it.
Udder preparation and stimulation
The cow must be properly prepared prior to milking. Proper udder preparation stimulates the cow to let down her milk. It removes microorganisms from the udder and teat skin, thereby reducing the risk of udder infection. The main actions in under preparation are:
Cleaning of udder and teats
- Clipping of the hairs of udder and flank of the cow is recommended to avoid dirt contamination.
- Dry cleaning of the udder and teats by use of disposable paper towel is advisable for producing high-quality milk as it reduces the risk of transfer of udder pathogens from one cow to another.
- Udders that are significantly dirty should be washed with lukewarm water from a bucket or a spray-jet and be dried thereafter with a paper towel.
- The water kept in buckets for washing should be regularly changed to reduce contamination, especially in case of herds with dirty udders.
- Udders that have not been properly dried after washing can be a source of contamination.
Checking of Foremilk
An important aspect of udder preparation is checking the foremilk with a strip cup. For checking, take out a small quantity of milk from each quarter. If the milk seems to be flaky, slimy or bloody, suspect mastitis and consult a veterinarian. Udder and teats should be checked for injuries, swelling and redness. Excess precaution should be taken when dealing with contaminated milk.
Attaching the milking machine unit
The timing between stimulation and actual attaching of the clusters should be properly checked. This timing of attachment should coincide with the letdown process and should be performed as a routine action. It will facilitate a complete milking within a shorter period of time. The teat cups should be gently attached in a correct manner with minimal loss of vacuum. The cluster unit must be applied correctly to the teats, usually within 30 seconds from the end of stimulation or as soon as the teats are full of milk. When cows get accustomed to proper milking practice, this time can be reduced following stimulation. Teat cups should be removed gently after shutting off the vacuum supply to the cluster unit.
Alertness during milking
The functioning of each cluster unit of the milking machine should be paid attention to ensure optimal milk is poured out. Correct attachment of the teat cups without suction of free air is essential to avoid the spread of pathogens or the sucking in of dirt. The milker should ensure that the cow has been milked out properly and completely. Bad milking habits, whether in machine or hand milking, result in injury to the delicate tissue lining of the teat, the udder cistern or the teat end. It is important that slipping of teat cups should be minimized because such occurrences might contribute to more machine-induced infections. It is good practice to remove the cluster unit immediately after the milk flow has stopped.
After removal of clusters, there is some amount of milk remaining on the teat end. If not removed, it may act as a medium for bacteria and may attract disease-carrying flies. To prevent this, it is recommended that teats should be dipped or sprayed with a disinfectant like chlorhexidine or organic iodine solution immediately after milking. After milking dipping of teat reduces the spread of mastitis pathogens.
Feeding Cows after milking
The cows should stand for at least one hour after milking to allow the teat sphincter to close tightly and the teat dip to act as an effective barrier against environmental infections. Providing fresh feed at the milking time tends to keep cows standing.
Cleaning and Disinfection of Equipment
Apart from proper milking techniques, the routine cleaning and disinfection of the milking equipment are more important. The risk of contamination is particularly great, once the milk has been evacuated from the udder and becomes exposed to a wide range of bacteria and other impurities.
Important factors in context to cleaning
- Water: The potable water should be clean and of minimal hardness.
- Time: The detergent/disinfectant should be in contact with a solid surface for about 5 -10 minutes with the temperature not below 40◦
- Temperature: Chemical reactions are accelerated by increasing the temperature and cleaning at higher temperature is more effective.
- Mechanical action: Use of a brush contributes to the cleaning efficiency.
- Chemical action: Cleaning chemicals remove dirt, disinfect and soften the water, thus preventing the formation of the milkstone.
As milking takes place twice a day, semi-automation or cleaning-in-place (CIP) operation are found to be attractive. The automatic washing unit ensures reliability throughout the cleaning process. The following routine can be practiced.
Cleaning circuit should be connected to the wash basin filled with luke-warm water. Water needs to be flown through the entire milk pipeline until it is clear and then drain it from the circuit.
Actual cleaning and disinfection
- Wash basin should be filled with the desired amount of hot water.
- Then detergent or a combined detergent/disinfectant should be added to the water.
- Milking units or the cleaning circuit should be placed in a way ensuring proper circulation.
- Solution should be circulated for about 10 minutes. At the end of the cleaning process the temperature of the water solution still be maintained above 40° C.
- After circulation drain the solution from the circuit.
After cleaning, circulation of cold water through the cleaning circuit needs to be done. A liquid milkstone remover (acid) may be added which eliminates the accumulation of milestone and improves the rubber life. Drain valves need to be opened so that all the water can run off.
The milker needs to be well versed in the mechanism of milk production and milking practices. Proper cleaning of milking equipment after each milking is necessary for the production of high quality milk. Milking routine when followed correctly will result in the milk of high quality. Shortcuts need to be avoided at all levels. Hence good milking machine management involves maintaining a regular and proper milking technique, creating a good working environment for milkers, practicing high hygienic standards during milking, rewarding employees with a bonus for their outstanding performance, using the right strength of cleaning and disinfection products, ensuring that milking is done at the desired vacuum level, checking the vacuum regulator regularly, testing milking machine system twice in a year for optimum maintenance. A dairy animal is an enterprise in itself, the better it is reared and milked, the better it is for economic farming.
Kanika Mahajan1*, Tania Gupta2, Sheikh Firdous Ahmad2, Satuti Sharma3 and Afaq Amin Najar3
1 Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Science university (GADVASU), Ludhiana
2 ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly (U.P.)
3 FVSc and AH, SKUAST Jammu, J&K.
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