Milking parlour considerations when reducing milk production

If you're reducing the number of times you milk your cows each day, you may need to make adjustments to your parlour and bulk tank cooling.

These considerations may not be applicable to all dairies and you should always consult a Parlour Safe accredited technician before making any adjustments to your parlour settings. 

Moving from three times-a-day milking to twice-a-day

The most important machine setting is the Automatic Cluster Removal (ACR) flow rate. A herd milking three times a day with a good milking routine would typically have a switch point between 600 – 800 g/min and a 10 second final delay.

A more suitable cluster take off setting for a twice a day milked herd would be 350 – 450 g/min with a 10 second final delay.

Twice-a-day milking to once-a-day

Dropping down to once a day milking is unlikely to require setting changes but some points for you to consider are:

  • Milk yield per milking and milk flow rate will increase which may put strain on a milking machine that is already marginally specified. Pay particular attention to the milk clearance rates from the claw piece, liner slippage and vacuum stability at the receiver vessel
  • The influence of slow milking cows will become even more pronounced, particularly in a swing over parlours
  • Reducing frequency of milking of cows which already have subclinical infection is likely to increase Somatic Cell Counts further. These cows will not be seen after milking for another 24 hours so it is important to ensure they are milked evenly on all 4 quarters and teats are thoroughly disinfected after milking. In other words, good cluster position is even more important. 
  • A missed developing mastitis case will now not be seen for a further 24 hrs so having an excellent mastitis detection routine in place will be key

Fixed duration milking

In a very small number of instances, you may use a maximum duration of milking setting.  If this is applied, it will need to be either adjusted or deactivated where milking frequency is reduced.

Will reducing milking frequency lower my herd's production?

Milk plant cleaning and disinfection

Don’t forget to check and, if necessary, alter the timing and sequencing of plant cleaning, particularly where acid and alkaline cleaners or hot/cold systems are used at alternate milkings.

Bulk tank and milk cooling considerations

  • If the milk pump, plate cooler and ice bank combinations are designed for a particular volume of milk, increasing the volume may potentially create cooling problems, particularly in warmer weather
  • Loading a complete day’s milk into the tank at a single milking may overload the refrigeration system. Most have been designed to deal with half or quarter of their capacity at one milking for every day or every other day collection respectively
  • If the refrigeration system is overloaded, it will struggle to cope with the cooling load
  • Extended periods at warm temperature will increase bacterial replication rates
  • The installer of the refrigeration system will be able to provide more detailed advice
  • Time clocks may need to be adjusted to allow cooling system running and cleaning times to match milking times
  • If milking times are to be altered it would be worth notifying the milk collection company if collection availability is to change. Cooling times may be extended so milk may not be ready for collection so quickly after milking

Learn more about Parlour Safe

Acknowledgements: We thank Ian Ohnstad from The Dairy Group and John Baines from MEA for their expertise and input into this article.

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