Achieving excellent bacterial counts in milk and the ban of chlorine products when cleaning were some of the topics of discussion at the National Dairy Council’s (NDC’s) annual farm walk and seminar this week.

The annual farm walk and seminar was held in Co. Monaghan on the McKenna family farm, who were the 2018 Quality Milk Award winners.

Speaking at the event, Teagasc’s David Gleeson discussed the management of total bacterial count (TBC) and the ban of chlorine cleaning products on farms in the next two years.

Touching on how the McKenna’s manage the TBC on their farm, he said: “The system they are using is a sensible system which could be copied by anyone.

We have always been recommending to use a detergent steriliser product, like they do, with less than 3.5% chlorine – you don’t need all this chlorine.

The product the McKenna’s use has 2.4% chlorine.

“So, he is using a product that is recommended in terms of what it contains, the right hot washes and the right number of acid washes per week. It’s not rocket science and he is getting fantastic results,” he added.

The farm completes seven hot washers per week including an acid descale wash once per week.

The farm’s TBC is currently low at less than 6,000. In 2018, the average TBC was 14,000, but this was attributed to an issue with a bulk tank. In 2017 – the year in which the award was based – the average TBC was 8,000.

David also emphasised the importance on properly rinsing out the machine, stating: “He consistently rinses out with 12L of water/unit, which is very important from a residue point of view.”

Chlorine residues in milk

David, who then went on to discuss the issues surrounding chlorine residues in milk, said: “This is an industry issue.

“Chlorine results in two residues – one is linked to the butter market, which is the lactic butter in the German market and which we are the big players in. The other residue is chlorides and that is related to infant milk formula.

We have 15% of the world infant milk formula market; so, we have to react when customers like Danone are saying our chlorine levels have to be below a certain level – or none detected.

“In light of this, the decision has been made that chlorine cleaning products will not be used on farms by 2021. Now, we have to think outside the box for alternative ways in washing.

“Some co-ops already have made the decisions to ban chlorine products and other co-ops are targeting the bulk tanks. It is a reality whether we like it or not,” he added.

“When using non-chlorine products, more hot water will have to be used, more caustic-based powders, more hot acid washes and no more recycling of the product.

“Peracetic acid can also be used in an additional rinse as an alternative disinfectant to chlorine, if needs be,” he concluded.