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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Milk Quality Starts at Home

Dairy Pipeline: November 2003

Alan G. Grove,
Extension Area Dairy Agent,
Valley of Virginia
(540) 564-3080

Producing milk requires a lot of time and energy on the farm. Producing quality milk requires attention to detail. It has been said that it doesn't take any longer to do the job right than to do it wrong, and this is true with producing quality milk. The production of quality milk starts with routine maintenance of the milking system. This should be done by your milking equipment provider every six months to ensure proper operation of the pulsators, vacuum and cooling systems. You can perform several maintenance tasks yourself, such as changing inflations, milk hoses and vacuum lines on a regular basis. The rubber in these items will deteriorate over time leaving cracks for bacteria to build up in. Another important piece of the puzzle is proper milking procedures. Pre strip all cows to check for abnormal milk, and discard milk from cows showing any signs of infection. Use a pre-dip to disinfect the teat and to help loosen any soil. Individual paper towels or cloths should be used to remove the teat dip and any soil prior to milking. Remember that the pre-dip should stay on the teat for 30 seconds to be effective, and don't forget to clean the teat end as well as the sides. After milking is complete teats should be dipped with a post-milking dip to prevent bacteria from entering the teat before the streak canal closes. Check all equipment daily to ensure that it is clean, especially the bulk tank. Your milk spends most of the time here prior to pick-up and any buildup can lead to high bacteria counts. Routine maintenance of the housing area also plays an important role in quality milk production. Remove all manure and urine from free stalls and provide adequate bedding. In loose housing facilities provide adequate bedding to absorb wastes and work it up at least twice daily. By providing a clean surface for cows to lie on, we can reduce the possibility of infections from environmental organisms. With or without low milk prices the extra premium money that is available for quality milk can go a long way in making your operation profitable and avoiding problems later. Remember, doing it right doesn't really take any extra time, just attention to details.

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