How often do you check the Milking Machine? Tips to prevent contagious mastitis in cattle

After talking to several vets, we realized that they don’t check the milking machine as often as they should. We will not get tired of repeating this message: the role of the milking machine is crucial to the prevention of mastitis in cattle!

“Have you ever checked the milking machine vacuum?”…

When talking to vets and asking them this question, usually we hear the answer “not as often as I would like” or “I only go to the milking parlour to clean my boots after working…”

We have created this series of posts in order to facilitate your approach to the milking machine and avoid the risk of having contagious mastitis in cattle.

In previous entries, we described the milking machine to you, and then we also gave you some tips to check the milking machine visually.

In this  third post we will provide you with a list of easy parameters to check during your visit to the “boot cleaning” place so you can prevent contagious mastitis in cattle.

The “Static Test” and its main advantages

The term “static testing” has traditionally been used to describe tests that are performed with the machine running but with only air flowing through the system (Reinemann, 1996).

The static test includes the following:

  • Vacuum levels in the plant: Vacuum levels are checked at various locations throughout the plant to ensure that there is no significant loss of vacuum between the pump and the teat end, and that the plant is set at the correct level. A drop in vacuum level would indicate that air is leaking into the system. The accuracy of the vacuum gauge is also checked. We have talked before about the role that incorrect vacuum can play in causing mastitis in cattle.
  • Vacuum reserve: Adequate vacuum reserve is needed to ensure that stability of pressure is maintained in the plant throughout milking. The ISO has made several recommendations for vacuum reserve. It must be remembered that these are minimum recommendations, and ideally, new plants should exceed these levels significantly.
    Systems with a low vacuum reserve will have difficulty in maintaining stable vacuum levels during milking.This may result in an increased number of liner slips and irregular vacuum fluctuations, which may affect the incidence of mastitis in cattle and poor milkout. The vacuum pump should have sufficient reserve capacity (known as the Effective Reserve or the Manual Reserve) to cope with accidental air admission through the teatcups during milking. The adequacy of reserve pump capacity can be estimated in the following way:

    • Note the vacuum level (preferably, in or near the receiver) with all units shut off.
    • Then, open the vacuum shut-off valves to one unit (or two units in systems with more than 32 units).
  • If the vacuum level does not fall more than 2 kPa, then the Effective Reserve is likely to be adequate.
  • If this test is carried out under the same conditions each month, and the vacuum level recorded for 1 or 2 clusters when fully open, then gradual changes in reserve pump capacity due to air leaks, pump wear or regulator malfunction can be monitored systematically (NMC, 1998).
  • Regulator function: It is important that the regulator functions correctly so that a stable vacuum level can be maintained throughout milking. Regulators commonly become blocked with dirt, thereby reducing the amount of air leaking into the system, but occasionally the mechanism becomes defective.
  • Pulsation: The most common pulsation faults include cracks or splits in the pulse tubes, foreign material (dirt, grit, straw, feed particles or insects) under the pulsator valve seats or lodged in the air inlet ports (NMC, 2006).

The role of the milking machine is crucial to the prevention of mastitis in cattle.

  • General condition of the plant, rubberware, etc.: The plant should be examined for any perished rubberware, leaky valves, etc., and its overall condition noted. Liner condition should be assessed and the frequency of change checked to ensure that the liners are replaced at the correct intervals.

All these points can fail due to the use and non-optimal maintenance of the milking machine, and every point that fails is another factor that can have a huge impact on mastitis in cattle.

We hope you find this information useful, and now is the time to apply these tips. Remember to subscribe to our Uddernews if you want to receive updates!

 

 

Content originally created for “the Mastipedia”.

Authors: Nicola Rota (Udder health and milk quality consultant).