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Cutting Corners Preparing Cow Doesn't Pay

Dairy Pipeline: May 1998

by G. M. Jones
Extension Dairy Scientist, Milk Quality and Milking Management
Virginia Tech
540/231-4764 email:

Cutting corners in cow preparation for milking doesn't pay. It appears that there may be a trend amongst herds that predip to cut out some practices in cow preparation for milking that they should not exclude. Some of the farms that I have visited during the past nine months have reduced cow preparation to pre-dipping followed by drying teats and then milking unit attachment. It is my opinion that they have eliminated a practice that is extremely important in stimulating cows to let down their milk. After visiting with these herds, some have problems with long machine-on times and poor "milk-out". After observing their milking practices, it appears that they are attaching the teatcups to teats that have not been sufficiently stimulated to let down their milk. In most cases, no foremilk stripping has occurred. Based on what I have read and seen on farms, the teat and teat end have to be stimulated to send a signal to the brain which results in the release of oxytocin into the bloodstream. The hormone, oxytocin, travels to the udder and causes the alveoli and milk ducts to contract, creating milk let-down. It is my opinion that the strongest signal that can be sent to initiate milk letdown is forestripping and research from Cornell University suggests that 4-5 powerful squirts should be stripped from each teat. On too many farms, I'm afraid that the first stimulation is drying off the pre-dip, and then the teatcup is immediately attached to a "dry" teat. I usually recommended that the routine should consist of stripping 3-5 squirts from each teat (preferably into a strip cup), pre-dip (and I've not seen many herds that adequately cover the backsides of the teat when using a spray), and move to the next cow because the pre-dip needs to stay on the teat for at least 30 seconds. I advocate stripping and dipping no more that 3-4 cows before returning to the first cow and drying her off and attaching the milker. In other herds, I have seen them predip or wash 8-10 cows before they go back and attach the units. The time becomes excessive. The milking unit should be attached within 60-90 seconds of stimulation. You should also know that the National Mastitis Council says that "milk should never be stripped into the hand because this routine spreads organisms from teat-to-teat and from cow-to-cow." And, yes, I still believe that there is considerable value in a strip cup in detecting new cases of clinical mastitis, especially watery milk.

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