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Dealers discuss early adoption of teat-scrubbing units

Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee Published on 28 September 2018

In the last few years, a number of teat-scrubbing technologies have been released in the marketplace. Progressive Dairyman reached out to several manufacturers or marketers of this equipment to learn what is attracting the initial purchasers as well as what might be holding some interested parties back.

Those who responded to our questions include Carola Contini, export manager, and Giuliano Vecchia, CEO, Puli-sistem; Keith Engel, dairy farm hygiene and supplies specialist, GEA, the exclusive distributor of FutureCow TeatScrubbers; Reese Ewert, Westar LLC and UdderGun; and Phil Mlsna, MTech Dairy Solutions.

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Q. Why are dairy producers investing in teat-scrubbing systems?

CONTINI AND VECCHIA: This product is a really effective and reliable system for pre-milking procedures. We know a pre-milking routine must stay top-of-mind. There are some important differences between automated and conventional pre-milking procedures. For example, with the teat scrubber, farmers are sure every cow is prepped in the same way every time.

This consistency reinforces why dairy producers are investing in teat-scrubbing systems. In addition, this automated pre-milking system helps farmers be more efficient so they have more time to monitor and manage their cows. They also save costs, as they can reduce the use of water by 80 percent and eliminate the use of towels.

Last, but not least, laboratory analyses have certified the presence of all species of microbes are drastically reduced thanks to a constant and correct use of the teat scrubber. So good hygiene when milking, a healthy animal and as few bacteria as possible in the milk are synonymous with the productivity of a farm. With the teat scrubber, dairy producers will reach these goals.

ENGEL: The answer boils down to one word: consistency. By automating the teat preparation process, farmers can ensure consistency in teat cleanliness and stimulation, and a consistent prep process, from milker to milker and from the first hour of milking to the last. Structure in procedure leads to quality and efficiencies.

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Depending on a farm’s goals, teat scrubbers allow farmers to milk more cows per hour, milk the same number of cows with less labor or add cows without adding labor. It also gives farmers an option to increase efficiencies and reduce labor without switching to full automation with robotic milking.

A consistent prep routine enhances teat conditioning and health, increases stimulation for better milk flow rates and improves milk quality. Our teat scrubbers also improve teat cleanliness by using a specialized chlorine dioxide solution that cleans, kills mastitis-causing organisms and dries quickly.

EWERT: It is an investment. We have designed our system to save the farmer money and time, paying itself off and creating more profit thereafter. A teat scrubber allows for consistency and efficiency when prepping the cows before milking. Our system uses less chemical than competing scrubbers and alternative methods like dip cups. In many cases, cell counts also drop, allowing for higher payment for premium milk.

MLSNA: Good dairy producers have a natural tendency to improve their income through productivity of their invested animals, especially after they see or hear of a product that has the potential to help them organize or streamline their parlor throughput.

Humans also tend to take the path of least resistance. With that knowledge, we need to put them in a controllable setting for success in their responsibility to create the best environment to achieve maximum stimulation for the animal. Our brush system reduces the need for cowside managers to be distracted by leaving the parlor for teat dip or towels and enhances their ability to easily participate in a successful and regulated cowside let-down procedure, as well as cleaning and sanitizing the teat.

In addition, our monitoring system puts parlor managers back in control of the sanitation and stimulation of each and every cow. Like a parlor manager once told me, “You don’t realize how easy this has made my job.” This is simply another tool to help him succeed.

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What are the roadblocks to further adoption?

CONTINI AND VECCHIA: One aspect that might stop dairy producers from purchasing the teat scrubber is the milking robot. With the milking robot, you eliminate the need for labor in the parlor. Of course, a milking robot is really expensive, and it may not be an option for all farmers. The teat scrubber is an affordable option for all dairy producers, from the small- to medium-sized dairies to the large ones.

Another roadblock might be the chemical product farmers use with our teat scrubber. Sometimes, they select an inadequate chemical product. For that reason, we have proven through university studies the teat scrubber is always efficient. Multiple research studies have all demonstrated the use of mechanical washing and drying contributes to reduced incidence of mastitis, reduced microbiotic presence in the milk and simplified work for the milker.

ENGEL: With any newer technology, it takes time to get the word out and educate farmers on the benefits to their cows and their bottom line. Adoption rates of our teat scrubbers have steadily increased over the past six years, and this technology will continue to spread as farmers see the value for their herd. One of the main roadblocks currently is the perception teat scrubbers are only available for larger farms.

When teat scrubbers were first introduced to the market, they were designed for larger producers. As our company has advanced its line of teat scrubbers, there are now options for herds of all sizes. Another initial roadblock was: The original teat scrubber systems had drive shafts that required more maintenance. Now we offer factory-sealed, direct-drive brush units with no drive shaft, which decreases maintenance substantially compared to a scrubber with a drive shaft.

EWERT: There are probably horror stories going around about farmers using teat scrubbers and the costs and maintenance associated. Many people have been left with a sour taste in their mouths from older, high-maintenance options. There’s a lack of awareness of the benefits of using the right teat scrubber. With high prices for certain models, people are leery of trying them.

MLSNA: As more systems are installed, people have more access to see the pros and cons of the technology. I find it remarkable we are still managing towels and everything that goes along with them. The acceptance of the use of a chlorinated product over iodine is also a perception that is misunderstood. Our brush system is reliant on a very effective instant kill of infectious organisms.

Another misunderstanding is the cost associated with an effective prep procedure. I always try to stress to potential customers the value of a pound of milk. You must always go after that. It’s not what you are doing now; it’s what the possibilities could be. Every goal we have can be better achieved with a proper letdown.

Q. What is being done to address these issues?

CONTINI AND VECCHIA: As research means a lot to us, we are constantly trying to improve our products and make them better for farmers. There’s a long list of reasons to incorporate our teat scrubber as part of a good dairy program, and farmers don’t have to wait for an opportunity to try it.

ENGEL: There have been many advancements in our teat scrubbers since they were first introduced to make the technology more easily accessible for farms of all sizes. Teat scrubbers on the market today are available with many different size controls – everything from heavy-duty systems for 3,000-plus cows to a mobile cart for tiestall barns. Farmers now have many different options at various price points that make the systems more affordable.

Newer features such as direct-drive options and factory-sealed brushes have also significantly reduced the amount of maintenance and upkeep needed for teat scrubbers, making the technology more appealing.

EWERT: First off, we have dropped our price. A two-gun system is less than $12,000. This makes it much more attractive for an initial purchase. Our system was designed from the ground up to clean and stimulate teats while being durable and easy to maintain. We don’t lock anyone into long, expensive contracts or force them to use a certain chemical.

MLSNA: As more successes are achieved with better brush use and design, dairymen will become more confident with brush technology. As in a lot of technology, you have early adaptors. I feel we are well over that part of the process.

I don’t run into many dairymen who don’t know what a brush is; it’s more a question of how it could be integrated into their management style. We have been very successful with reliability and maintenance of our system. We are going to introduce more labor-saving automation options in the near future, which will surprise many.

We have increased our understanding of disinfectant chemistry. We also have a wider selection of teat brush options to choose from, which helps us adapt to a wider range of conditions that will allow our users to fit their individual challenges.

For example, drylots, freestalls, mats with a whole array of bedding materials are the challenge. In the end, whatever her teat lays on is our challenge in the parlor. Our future will depend on the skill sets we improve to meet those challenges.  end mark

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Karen Lee
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