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|Growth and management go hand-in-hand|
|El Lechero Dairy Basics - Herd Health|
|Written by Fabian Bernal|
|Monday, 14 November 2011 14:31|
Standard management principles had no application in the dairy industry until the recent changes in business models and dairy farm size.
The management of dairies is improving, and since the milking center is at the heart of a dairy, its design, maintenance and management is crucial to the farm’s success.The role of a dairy manager is to ensure good agricultural, hygienic and animal husbandry practices are employed at the farm level. The focus should be on preventing a problem rather than solving it after it has occurred.
However, as much as the industry has focused on improving management, there are still things individual producers can always do better.
As dairies grow larger, parlor management becomes crucial while maximizing profitability on the dairy farm.
Some of the areas of major concern in every parlor include milking procedures, milk quality evaluations and better practices in the milking parlor. Below are some initial guidelines to help maintain a successful milk quality and udder health program.
1. Keep cows clean, dry and comfortable.
2. Utilize full hygiene programs.
3. Use both somatic cell count (SCC) testing and culturing as monitors.
4. Know the pathogens we are dealing with.
5. Know the epidemiological control methods for the pathogens found after culturing.
Again, these are important areas that directly affect quality milk, herd health, animal welfare and animal longevity. Milking parlor management includes the concept of milking routine and milking techniques.
Once the optimal routine is decided upon, taking into consideration standards like prep lag times and bacterial kill time, training and monitoring milkers to implement that routine completes a big part of the parlor management process.
The ultimate goal is to milk clean, dry, well-stimulated teats using the proper equipment, good settings and excellent procedures. This is why we need to get in the parlor and work with milkers before deciding what protocols work best at the farm.
Employee commitment is crucial in order to minimize procedural drift and ensure parlor routine and milking procedures are consistently done the same way every time.
Keep an eye out for signs of procedural drift, including employees’ actions in the parlor (loudness, aggressiveness, lack of enthusiasm, etc). Spikes in mastitis events and higher somatic cell counts can also provide clues.
It is important to identify and quickly correct areas of noncompliance. Sometimes, employees break procedure with good reason, so work collaboratively for successful outcomes.
Stimulation is the key for a successful milking – evaluate times not just on paper, but also individual animal performance in the parlor, as well as worker practices and behavior.
Keep in mind, once we touch the cow’s teats, we need about 60 - 90 seconds lag time until the unit needs to be attached to get the most out of the natural oxytocin to “squeeze” the milk out for letdown. Oxytocin only lasts four to six minutes.
Mastitis control and producing high-quality milk requires clean and dry teats when units are attached and avoiding cross-contamination in the process.
It has long been known that the rate of new udder infections increases with the number of bacteria at the teat end. Previous associations have been made between clean housing, clean cows and lower bulk tank somatic cell counts.
An index of environmental sanitation, based on the amount of manure present on the cow and in her environment, was a predictor for the occurrence of coliform mastitis. Good milking procedures are essential for good udder health – we need to pay special attention to small details, use only one towel per cow and always clean teat ends properly.
Fluctuation of SCC and more clinical cases of mastitis are signs of problems possibly related to parlor management plus environment. It is not uncommon to see issues like twisted liners and broken airlines creating uneven milking that can generate long-term problems.
It is important that milking equipment be maintained and checked to minimize elevated somatic cell counts and new cases of mastitis. Small changes in everyday practices can make a big difference; for example, you should realign milk inflations at least once in between changes. Many parlor problems will be solved by reducing unit-on time, improving prep lag time and avoiding over-milking.
Teat dipping in conjunction with dry cow therapy is the best way to control the spread of contagious and environmental bacteria. The primary function of post-dipping the teats is to flush (cover) off the milk film left on the teats wherever the teat was exposed to vacuum during the milking process.
Once the milk film is flushed with dip, a germicide will kill residual bacteria and condition the skin wile preventing secondary bacterial infections, controlling the spread of pathogens and minimizing animal stress. This is why it’s important milkers dip cows’ teats gently and cover all four teats at least 80 percent.
Milking hygiene is similar to controlling contagious mastitis. Use individual towels, clean hands and good disposable gloves, etc. Ensure a well-functioning milking machine with clean pulsators, air hoses and change inflations. Make sure pulsators are working properly.
Don’t slow down the milking process – it just prolongs milking stress on the teat-end damage. Also, milk infected animals last or milk separately.
In conclusion, the milking parlor is the heart of your dairy; don’t neglect it. As dairy farms become larger, employee training in that area becomes even more critical. Make use of the training opportunities that are available and help your employees become better milkers. EL
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