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CIP detectives count multiple ways to count less bacteria

Ron Robinson Published on 09 August 2013

High bacteria counts are always a concern for a dairy, but fluctuating bacteria counts can signify even more complex problems. The CIP detectives recently visited a 300-cow dairy in northwestern Wisconsin that was facing such a problem.




With a major mystery to solve, we put on our gumshoes and went to work solving the “Case of the Big, Bad Bacteria Counts.”

The primary culprit
When we arrived on the scene, we discovered a CIP system that had been improperly cleaned


for quite some time.

The system was dirty throughout, and there was noticeable build-up of organic waste material in the milk filter, a sure sign that bacteria counts would be off the charts.


The primary question: Was the CIP system dirty due to negligence, or was there something else going wrong?

After more investigation, we learned that this CIP system was never subjected to a proper pre-rinse.


Additionally, the receiver hadn’t been properly drained, which had led to a build-up of milk in the bottom of the receiver.

We tracked these problems to an unconnected supply line between the wash vat and the system.

Without a proper connection, the water from the wash vat couldn’t circulate the system and instead drained onto the floor.


Not only was this causing a pre-rinse failure, it was creating an unhealthy pool of standing water on the dairy floor.

A surprise accomplice

The first action our detectives took was to properly connect the supply line to the CIP system and begin a pre-rinse cycle.

We immediately realized that the air injector wasn’t adjusted to provide a water slug large enough to effectively flush the pipes.

This resulted in cloudy milk-water pumping through the system during every phase of the cleaning process.

Eighty-five percent of CIP cleaning happens during the pre-rinse, so an efficient slug is an


absolute necessity.

In fact, an ineffective slug can do more harm than not cleaning at all because it is essentially just circulating dirty milk-water that settles into crevices and corners, where it becomes food for breeding bacteria.

And the more nourishment available for bacteria, the more likely a bacteria problem will arise.

Ensuring proper timing of the air injector is an important aspect to improving pre-rinse effectiveness because an improperly set air injector fails to create a slug large enough to


clean the entire pipe.

And a system not pre-rinsing properly cannot be cleaned properly.

Long-term solutions
There was more to this dairy’s CIP mystery than this single fix, so the CIP detectives made two more recommendations:

1. Improve training for milkers
Employees need to be taught how to recognize when the CIP system isn’t washing correctly.

They need to know how to look for disconnected


hoses and to double-check that all pipes are connected.

In short, they need a working knowledge of the system so they can be sure that everything is working correctly before, during and after milking – and especially during cleaning.

2. Monitor all phases of the wash process
On many farms (and this farm in particular), the CIP washing phase is used as an opportunity for employee breaks.

After the cows are milked and the wash starts, the employees leave, meaning nobody remains to watch the wash and ensure that everything is working properly and cleaning effectively.

Careful monitoring practices can prevent a small problem from growing and even stop problems


before they happen.

Case closed
While an unconnected supply line sounds like an obvious problem, it had gone unnoticed through this wash cycle and probably several others before, meaning it had been far too long since this CIP system had been cleaned properly.

One of the most important aspects of proper CIP cleaning is vigilance. If this problem had been caught earlier, the problem wouldn’t have gotten quite so out of hand.

If it ever seems as though something isn’t right with the CIP process, don’t hesitate to call your dealer.

Most dealers are more than happy to help a dairy operation solve its CIP problems because quality milk is in everyone’s best interest. PD

IMAGE A: The wash vat was not sending water to the system due to an unconnected supply line.

IMAGES B & C: The receiver wasn’t drained and had milk in the bottom.

IMAGE D: We discovered a noticeable build-up of organic material in the milk filter.

IMAGE E: The supply line to the wash vat wasn’t connected.

IMAGES F, G & H: Milky, cloudy water was circulating through the system, creating
a fertile environment for bacteria, as seen on the milk filter. Photos courtesy of Ron Robinson.


Ron Robinson
Vice President of Business Development
A&L Laboratories

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