Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

13 tips to manage your parlor in winter

Keith Engel Published on 31 December 2015
curious cow

There’s no doubt about it, winter weather can wreak havoc on the day-to-day operations of the farm. Ice and snow can make the simple task of walking 5 feet a treacherous one.

To make sure cold weather doesn’t cause your herd too many challenges, keep an eye on the following areas:



1. Evaluate vacuum and take-off settings

Winter weather can be one of the most challenging times for teat ends. Take steps to ensure optimal take-off and vacuum settings for your herd to ensure teat-end health.

Match vacuum settings and pulsation to the current liner. Adjust milking parlor settings to match the herd’s current milk production level. Keep an eye on milk-flow rates; they may fluctuate as temperatures dip but should stay consistent with the weather if udder prep is optimal.

2. Protect parlor entrance and exit areas

Cow flow to and from the parlor can be affected by ice and frozen manure. Eliminate this potential winter obstacle by making sure cow entrance and exit areas are protected. Some dairies may need to scrape the return lane every hour when it’s extremely cold to keep the exit alleys in good condition.

Entrance and exit areas will need to be managed based on each farm’s situation, but keep in mind that manure freezes and it will impact parlor flow if not managed appropriately.

3. Implement a winter teat dip

The use of a post-dip with increased levels of emollients is crucial to protect, heal and soften skin during colder weather and in harsh winter conditions. During extremely cold weather, use a proven winter teat dip to protect teats.


With a high-emollient winter teat dip, teat health is protected from increased drying, chapping or frostbite from harsh winter weather. A good winter teat dip should also include an effective germicide proven to kill mastitis-causing bacteria and increase blood circulation.

4. Protect your employees

Make sure your milkers have the proper gear to protect them from the harsh elements; this includes milking sleeves and the gloves that allow them to do their job both sanitarily and in comfort.

In addition, make sure there is a proper heat source in your milking parlor to ensure your employees are comfortable on their shifts. If they aren’t comfortable, it will be hard for them to do their jobs.

5. Warm up the drop hoses

Inside the parlor, it can be more conducive to keep milking units and the parlor clean if warm water is in the drop hoses. Sanitizer injected in drop hoses can help to keep milking units and milking gloves clean and sanitized.

6. Eliminate leaks

A leak from a water hose in warm weather might not be a big issue, but in winter it quickly can become a big deal. Make sure to eliminate any leaks from water hoses to remove the possibility of ice building up in and around the milking parlor or anywhere on your farm.

7. Warm up the supply room

Don’t overlook the temperature of the supply and equipment rooms. Depending upon the individual operation, this may be where you keep teat dips and blending systems for teat-scrubbing systems. It is imperative that these rooms stay above 50ºF.


On some farms, these rooms have garage doors to drive in and out; keep an eye out that these doors stay shut to prevent hygiene products from freezing.

8. Maintain traction

Make sure the flooring has proper traction to prevent cows from slipping and falling. Consider the entire pathway the cow takes to and from the parlor and in her pen. It is often necessary to spread lime or sand in cow traffic areas to ensure traction.

9. Cautiously warm up treatments

Work with your veterinarian to establish a best practice for warming up mastitis treatment tubes prior to use. If warm water surrounds the tube itself, you may run the risk of getting prototheca mastitis.

10. Rethink warming post-dip

If you elect to warm up the teat dippers in a bucket of hot water, take steps to ensure that water does not mix with the teat dip. This can increase the chance for mastitis-causing pathogens to spread and reduce the effectiveness of the teat dip.

11. Take temps on hot water

Verify that the amount of hot water available is adequate. The water-draining temperature from a clean-in-place system should be 120ºF and above.

When it’s cold, water heaters might run 10ºF less than other seasons. Verifying that there is enough hot water to handle the system will make sure the clean-in-place system is clean.

12. Adjust schedules for weather

Work with your employees to adjust their schedules to arrive half-an-hour early to a shift. Winter can make everything more challenging, and it is crucial for employees to show up early on shifts and that they plan for extra time to travel to and from work.

13. Plan for bad weather

Plan for who will milk the cows if bad weather hits and employees can’t make it into work. Have a back-up plan; whether it be back-up milkers or other people, this is a reality due to travel in winter conditions.

Use this guide to help navigate the challenges winter weather throws your way this year.  PD

Keith Engel is a dairy farm hygiene and supplies specialist with GEA. Email Keith Engel or call (630) 640-3665.

PHOTO: Cow flow to and from the parlor can be affected by ice and frozen manure. Be sure to manage these areas to keep them safe for cow traffic. Photo provided by GEA Farm Technologies.

Keith Engel
  • Keith Engel

  • Dairy Farm Hygiene and Supplies Specialist
  • GEA Farm Technologies
  • Email Keith Engel