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0909 PD: Stretched to the limit? Don’t forget about equipment maintenance

Norm Schuring Published on 05 June 2009
Getting more mileage out of every investment is a common mindset during tough times.

You may wait a few extra milkings before changing liners, trying to stretch the time between regularly scheduled milking system maintenance. But what happens when performance is sacrificed and problems arise? Higher operational expenses, additional labor, parlor downtime and costly emergency services calls often result.

The emergency service call
Maintaining parlor performance through regularly scheduled maintenance is a “must do” regardless of the economy. Milk harvest and milk handling equipment wear over time and become less efficient, making proper machine maintenance by your milking machine dealer or other qualified specialist critical. Increasing intervals between regular maintenance can reduce labor and production efficiency, as well as milk quality. When emergency calls are needed, results may be unexpected downtime and higher costs than those associated with regularly scheduled maintenance.

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A comprehensive evaluation of the milking system, using appropriate testing equipment to ensure it is functioning according to industry standards and performance guidelines, will provide multiple benefits, including:

• Predictable costs
While regular maintenance is an expense, it will assure the performance of your milking system and avoid both the high cost of emergency service and the loss of milking efficiency. By choosing to have your parlor serviced on a routine basis, you can keep operational costs more constant, reasonable and regular, allowing you to plan ahead and budget appropriately.

• Reduced parlor downtime
In most emergency situations, the parlor may be shut down completely, meaning milking schedules and parlor throughput will be negatively impacted. More and more operations are scheduled to operate 24/7, and the likely shutdown caused by emergency service should be avoided if on-farm operations are to be maintained.

• Added efficiencies and quality
Regular maintenance ensures machines are harvesting milk in a timely fashion, allowing for complete milkout and maintaining milk quality. Keep in mind that your milking system is used more hours per day than any other equipment and needs to be maintained in excellent condition since it is used to harvest the primary product marketed from your dairy.

• Minimize udder problems
Improperly functioning systems can often be a contributing factor to teat condition, mastitis and milk quality problems. For example, injury to teat tissue can result if the pulsation system is improperly maintained, leading to costly performance consequences and adding stress to the teat tissue, increasing the risk of udder infection.

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Putting a price to maintenance
Producers who forgo maintenance often think the risks of emergency calls and parlor downtime won’t increase on their dairy. They think their staff and good luck can ward off such problems, avoiding having to pay for a service person to come to the dairy. It’s possible they are just trying to stretch the system’s performance and avoid maintenance by one additional month. Whatever the reason, and no matter how prepared you may feel, there are multiple risks to udder health and machine performance associated with deferred maintenance.

The first and most important risks, of course, are the financial repercussions of deferred parlor maintenance. The cost of regularly scheduled maintenance is dependent on the size of the parlor and the amount of work needing to be done. However, as the example below illustrates, regularly scheduled maintenance is a small cost when compared to the benefits received. See Table 1*.

On the other hand, the next example shows maintenance costs for the same dairy when parts and labor are stretched a bit further, resulting in more emergency service calls. See Table 2*.

The additional $5,132.82 spent on maintenance may not, on the surface, seem significant, but there is more to consider than this cost alone. Some other factors that are also directly impacted:

• More revenue towards costs
More milk revenue from each cow will be put toward paying maintenance costs. While it’s only $0.01 per cow per day in this example, $0.01 each day of the lactation is $3 per cow and $4,500 annually on a 1,500-cow dairy.

• Quality
It’s imperative for udder health that machine functionality problems are avoided through regular maintenance. If cows are visibly uncomfortable from the milking machine attachment – kicking at the machine or evidencing sore teat ends – the problem has already manifested itself and may have already caused permanent damage. The purpose of regular maintenance is to avoid such problems by making changes before problems surface.

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• Efficiency
Regular maintenance ensures the parlor is working at peak performance, helping to optimize efficiencies and throughput. Poorly functioning machines can slow throughput and negatively impact efficiencies and milkout, all of which ultimately impact your bottom line.

To provide the best environment in the milking parlor, keep parlor maintenance top-of-mind rather than waiting for a problem to arise. Averting problems, rather than treating them, can help to maintain milk quality and parlor throughput. Talk to your dealer about following NMC protocols to ensure your equipment is working at peak performance and revenue is maximized year ’round. PD

*Tables omitted but are available upon request to

Norm Schuring
Vice President for
GEA WestfaliaSurge

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