Break out the hand warmers, wool socks and boot dryers — winter is here. Just as you adapt your winter routine to care for your herd, you should also adjust your routines in and around the milking parlor to ensure udder health, production and operation efficiency doesn’t skip a beat.
“Winter is making an earlier appearance in some regions of the country,” said Keith Engel, hygiene and supplies specialist with dairy equipment company GEA. “Now is a great time to review your milking system and protocols to ensure your farm, employees and cows are ready.”
Here are eight steps to get your milking routine and parlor procedures winter ready:
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 your 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. “And 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 your employees
Make sure milkers have proper winter gear for protection and gear to keep milking sanitary, like milking sleeves and gloves. A heat source in the parlor area can also help keep employees comfortable during milking. If your employees commute to the farm, encourage them to be mindful of longer drive times.
“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 your hoses
Having warm water and sanitizer in your 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 your supply and equipment rooms, especially if you’re storing teat dips and blending ingredients for teat-scrubbing systems there.
“Try to keep supply and equipment rooms at 50 degrees Fahrenheit 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 you warm up teat dippers in a bucket of hot water, take steps to ensure water doesn’t mix with 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 water temperature
Ensure the amount of hot water available on your dairy is adequate by monitoring wash cycles. When it’s cold, hot water can drop 10 degrees lower or more than other seasons.
“The water draining temperature from a CIP system should be 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher,” Engel said. “By ensuring there is enough hot water for the system, you can be confident it is helping maintain proper hygiene.”
Make your transition to a winter milking routine seamless by working with your milk quality and hygiene specialist to get your parlor winter ready.
GEA is one of the largest suppliers for the food processing industry and a wide range of other industries that generated consolidated revenues of approximately EUR 4.8 billion in 2018. The international technology group specializes in machinery, and production facilities as well as process technology and components. GEA provides sustainable energy solutions for sophisticated production processes in various end-user markets and offers a comprehensive service portfolio. The group generates around 70% of its revenue in the food and beverages sector that enjoys long-term sustainable growth. As of Dec. 31, 2018, the company employed about 18,500 people worldwide. GEA is a market and technology leader in its business areas. The company is listed on the German MDAX (G1A, WKN 660 200), the STOXX® Europe 600 Index and selected MSCI Global Sustainability Indexes. Further information is available at gea.com.