Better cluster handling can improve milking practises

When you milk cows, twice a day, seven days a week, you probably know all there is to know about milking routine. But are you putting all that you know into practice? A few simple steps when milking can be good for you, your cows and your dairy business.

When attaching the cluster, keep the pulse and milk tubes on the cow exit side of you ensuring that they are not in the way when moving to the next cluster.

Hold the cluster with the hand closest to the cow exit side (usually the hand nearest to the dairy). This means that you will change hands to hold the cluster depending on which side you are attaching the cluster. Kink the tail of the liner when attaching to the cows teat and also guide the teat into the liner with your finger. Attach the liners in a circular motion starting with the one closest to the thumb of the hand holding the cluster.

Make sure that the cluster hangs on the cow properly. Good cluster alignment is where the long milk tube hangs in line with the cow’s back bone when applied between the back legs and at 90 degrees to the back bone when applied in front of the back leg.

The reason for this is that changing hands will help ensure that the risk of repetitive strain injury is minimised and that you have a better reach when attaching the cluster. Making sure that the cluster hangs on the cow evenly will help to ensure that all four quarters are milked out completely.

Cluster Removal

Manual cluster removal should commence when a single stream of milk is visible in the claw piece. This minimises the risk of over milking. Remove the cluster without causing air blasts.Turn off the vacuum by kinking the long milk tube close to the claw piece or using the button on the claw piece and allow the cluster to become limp on the udder (2-3 seconds before attemping to remove the unit). Always ensure that the air bleed hole is not blocked as this may slow down air ingress and thus cluster removal. The cluster should be detached with the hand that you intend to attach it to the next cow (the hand on the cow entry side of the parlour). If automatic cluster removers (ACRs) are installed in the parlour make sure that they are removing the clusters at the proper row rate.

The reason for this is that allowing the unit time to become limp on the udder minimises the risk of an air blast occurring when clusters are being removed, reducing the risk of both mastitis and teat end damage occurring.

Improve your milking skills and get more from your cows is an information booklet produced by Teagasc in collaboration with FRS and AHI.

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