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Are you in hot water?

Ron Robinson Published on 19 November 2009

On average, a person uses 18 gallons of water to take a shower. The average shower length is about 9 minutes with an average temperature of 107.5°F. That’s a lot of hot water for taking a shower. Now throw in laundry, washing dishes, etc., and you can see why a family needs a good hot water heater. It also makes sense that a larger family requires a water heater with more capacity. Right? As a dairy producer, do you know how much water you’re using in the parlor and milk house and at what temperatures?

We recently visited a dairy producer who was having milk quality problems. As we drove in, he was pulling out to meet with the plumber at his house up the road. The producer’s wife called earlier that morning all upset because there was no hot water and she needed a shower. We wish every producer was as dedicated to water temperatures at the dairy as they are to the temperatures at their house.

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Water demands
Many dairy operations we visit do not have an adequate volume of hot water. At this particular dairy, we watched the calf feeder fill up buckets with warmer water just before the CIP wash cycle was going to start. The calves were happy getting their milk replacer, but the owner of the dairy kept seeing his bacteria counts fluctuate – and his milk premiums decrease. The problem: the chlorinated alkaline detergent solution was entering the wash sink at about 125°F. And the water temperature at the end of the wash cycle was only about 105°F.

Those temperatures are not hot enough to emulsify milk fat, disperse milk proteins and promote good cleaning action. Upon further investigation, we found that the dairy’s water heater had a broken dip tube, allowing cold and hot water to mix in the tank. We also determined that the unit was undersized, based on a recent herd expansion and more water heating demands. We made two people happy that day: the dairy producer who improved his milk quality and the plumber who got to install two new water heaters.

Focus on temperature
In the parlor, water is needed for a wide range of daily functions, including cleaning, sanitizing and pre-cooling milk. Proper water temperatures during these functions are critical to CIP success. Let’s start with the pre-rinse phase. We recommend flushing the system with 110-120°F water. Next, during the cleaning phase, detergents need the correct wash water temperature throughout the wash cycle to be effective. Water at the end of the cycle must be a minimum of 120°F; on most farms that means starting temperatures need to be approximately 160°F.

If these temperatures cannot be achieved, producers need to upgrade their water heater or use products specifically designed for lower water temperatures. Then, for the acid phase, most acids are effective at removing detergents and chlorine when added to warm water ranging from 100°F to 120°F (there are some acids formulated for cold water). Failure to maintain proper water temperatures during all the cleaning phases leads to the majority of cleaning challenges. These challenges can be corrected with a properly sized and maintained water heater.

Checking temperatures
How do you measure and monitor wash cycle temperatures? A time temperature recorder (TTR) can alert producers to water temperature problems and other potential milk quality issues. A TTR uses a digital clock combined with the input data from three separate sensors to follow milking, storage and wash procedures. It will inform producers that processes are running as expected or sound an alarm if there is a problem. While mandatory in parts of Canada, producers in the U.S. are just starting to discover the benefits of installing a TTR.

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Using a TTR, producers will receive information about:
• Milk cooling and storage temperatures
• The agitation process
• Cooler on/off and optional plate cooler on/off
• Bulk tank wash temperature and duration
• Pipeline wash temperature and duration
• Conductivity of the bulk tank and pipeline discharge water

Researchers at the University of Guelph confirmed that milk bacteria counts were lower on farms that had a TTR system. The study also found that dairies averaged one alarm per month, with insufficient pipe cleaning being the most common alarm. Other alarms during the study were related to a high blend temperature, insufficient tank cleaning and slow cooling. We are called to many dairies because their bacteria counts are going up and down without any explanation. Reviewing months’ worth of data captured by a TTR allows us to troubleshoot a system and quickly pinpoint the issue at hand. On many dairies, the cost to install a TTR can be recouped with just one alarm, saving a bulk tank of milk. These recorders can be a valuable tool in helping to ensure quality milk production. PD

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