Are your milk­ing prac­tices “nor­mal”?

Dairy News Australia - - ANIMAL HEALTH - ROD DYSON • Rod Dyson is a ve­teri­nary sur­geon and mas­ti­tis ad­viser at www.dairy­fo­cus.com.au

RE­CENT MILK­ING time vis­its to a num­ber of dif­fer­ent dairy sheds have re­minded me that “nor­mal” means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. Cup re­moval is al­ways an in­ter­est­ing part of the milk­ing rou­tine to ob­serve — in both man­ual and au­to­matic sys­tems. Au­to­matic cup re­movers (ACRs) are a won­der­ful aid to milk­ing, but be­cause they are “au­to­matic”, when they do some­thing wrong, they “au­to­mat­i­cally” do it wrong all the time! We have watched ACRs re­move cups so force­fully that the clus­ter be­comes a swing­ing pro­jec­tile, mak­ing cup re­moval al­most a life threat­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. On one farm, the force of cup re­moval was so se­vere that the noise of the clus­ter hit­ting the steel­work was al­most deaf­en­ing in the closed con­fines of the dairy shed. Of­ten the cows will be a great in­di­ca­tor of when some­thing is not right, or no longer what they think is “nor­mal”. The cows in an­other dairy ap­peared to be get­ting ag­i­tated close to the point of cup re­moval, and we ob­served the ACRs to be re­mov­ing cups in a fash­ion that seemed to drag heav­ily on the teats. The cows’ dis­com­fort was quite ob­vi­ous to us, and we quickly found that most of the air ad­mis­sion holes were blocked, mean­ing that cups were be­ing re­moved whilst still un­der vac­uum. The other sign of blocked air ad­mis­sion holes is that the claw fills with milk dur­ing milk­ing, as the in­tro­duc­tion of air is needed to move the milk away from the claw. The full claw bowls in these clus­ters dur­ing milk­ing had also not been no­ticed. The re­ac­tion of the cows at cups-on can also be in­ter­est­ing. Watch­ing a cups-on per­son move close to the bridge on a ro­tary plat­form, now be­ing in a po­si­tion be­fore the point at which the feed drop oc­curs, usu­ally elic­its a change in be­hav­iour of the cows be­cause cups will be go­ing on be­fore milk let-down has oc­curred. This com­monly results in cows be­ing a lit­tle more ag­i­tated, of­ten shuf­fling their feet, or even kick­ing as cups are ap­plied. My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence is of some­times be­com­ing an­noyed at the first cou­ple of cows on the her­ring­bone plat­form “play­ing up”, only to re­alise that it was me who had for­got­ten to turn the feed­ers on! In­ter­est­ingly, it al­ways took a cou­ple of cows be­fore I recog­nised that this wasn’t “nor­mal”. At one dairy, milk­ing staff left the pit after ev­ery side of the her­ring­bone fin­ished, to chase the next batch of cows into the dairy. These staff mem­bers con­sid­ered this to be nor­mal for this dairy, and it cer­tainly ap­peared that the cows agreed, be­cause they looked to be stand­ing in the yard, just wait­ing for the “chaser”! This had be­come the new “nor­mal”, for both cows and peo­ple, which is an in­ter­est­ing con­cept. While these are quite dra­matic changes, more subtle changes fre­quently oc­cur. I was re­cently re­minded of this in our fam­ily home when I was asked to move the pile of mag­a­zines from the kitchen bench, and my im­me­di­ate thought re­sponse was “What mag­a­zines?” Pon­der­ing this a lit­tle fur­ther, I re­alised that hav­ing left the mag­a­zines there for a few days, their pres­ence on the bench had be­come “nor­mal” for me. I no longer recog­nised that their pres­ence on the bench was “ab­nor­mal” — in fact, they had be­come the new nor­mal. Both peo­ple and cows will “nor­malise” things that we see, hear or do reg­u­larly. Once this has oc­curred, things are un­likely to change un­less some­one else recog­nises and re­ports the ab­nor­mal­ity. The sooner we recog­nise this change, and act to ad­dress it, the quicker it is to re-train cows. En­trenched be­hav­iour in both cows and peo­ple is much more dif­fi­cult and takes longer to change. Farm­ers and their milk­ing staff rarely spend a milk­ing in an­other dairy, and rarely have some­one else ob­serve a milk­ing in their own dairy. Yet most farms are likely to sig­nif­i­cantly ben­e­fit from a set of out­side eyes ob­serv­ing the milk­ing process and rou­tine — this could be an­other farmer, or could it be an ad­viser — look­ing for both ob­vi­ous and more subtle changes from “nor­mal”. Countdown trained ad­vis­ers have a set of tools to as­sess milk­ing rou­tines in terms of what is nor­mal or ab­nor­mal, and also the likely risks to milk qual­ity. Quite sim­ply, at the end of the day, “nor­mal” is what­ever you make it!

Most farms are likely to sig­nif­i­cantly ben­e­fit from a set of out­side eyes ob­serv­ing the milk­ing process and rou­tine.

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