Achieving High-Quality Milk Requires More Than Luck
Apr 19, 2010
By Brian Medeiros
Medeiros and his parents own and operate a 2,300-cow herd in the San Joaquin Valley, near Hanford, Calif.
Milk quality is a No. 1 priority at our dairy as we strive for excellent quality with high-producing cows.
Milk quality, however, does not just fall from the sky and come to our dairy. It is a part of our business that takes time and effort, with training and maintenance of a relatively simple protocol.
Although our protocols are not extensive or input-intensive, they have allowed us to maintain a fairly low somatic cell count of about 115,000. Our protocols also account for healthier cows, with less than 0.5% of the total milking herd in the hospital with mastitis.
When a cow is found in the milking parlor with mastitis, flakes in the milk, a swollen or hot quarter or any sign of abnormalities to the milk or udder, she is separated from the string and put into the hospital pen. Our hospital milks in an outside barn. We changed over to this type of hospital management to reduce the possibility of contaminating our milk.
Once the herdsman examines the cow, she is entered in the computer with the remarks necessary to identify what she is experiencing. We use Dariclox on our farm and administer it by the recommended procedures.
If the cow clears up and is healthy, we return her to her string. If she is still experiencing mastitis, we will evaluate her further and administer a second round of Dariclox. If she comes back from the string with a second case of mastitis, we will compare the case to the first one, then treat accordingly.
A cow that is diagnosed with three or more instances of mastitis is examined for milk production, net worth to the dairy and overall relative value. If she’s a keeper, we will treat her again. If the cow is not of value, we will remove her from the herd.
Two major areas we focus on to ensure that our cows do not contract mastitis and to reduce its spread to the entire herd are:
1) the milking parlor;
2) the freestall bedding and open lots for the cows to lie in.
In the milking parlor, we are always trying to stay on top of pulsation rates, vacuum levels and inflation maintenance. Our in-house mechanic runs through the barn every week to make sure that all of the equipment is calibrated and running properly.
We run about 13.5 lb. of vacuum on a variable-drive system. The inflations are changed out every three weeks to guarantee quality, reduce the incidence of slippage and squawking, and maintain a constant flow of milk away from the teat end.
We also predip and postdip our cows to provide the greatest barrier to contamination. We attribute success to our milkers for remaining observant and following the procedure completely.
The cow’s environment is also important. We try our hardest to make sure that the milking cows have dry bedding every time they lay down to rest.
The freestalls are raked at a minimum of every other day, with fill days on Tuesday. When the employee arrives at the barn, he will do a walk-through with the rake, pull out any wet spots and fill in any major void with the buildup from the top of the bed.
We stress the importance of taking all the wet bedding out of the bed to provide a pathogen-free environment for the cows to lay their udders on. We will then run our tine rake over the bed to break up any hard spots and increase area in the bedding.
We use dried manure for our bedding. We take the manure from our separator and spread it out to dry in the summer. We then stockpile it and cover it for use in the winter. This allows us to have very dry bedding all year round.
Our success in milk quality can be attributed to two key factors for our cows: sanitary and dry environments.
Medeiros writes monthly for Dairy Today’s "Dollars & Sense" column. Read past columns at www.dairytoday.com.