The most intensely used equipment on a dairy operation is contained within the milking system. And, well-documented research proves that proper performance of this equipment has a positive influence on milk quality, cow health and parlor throughput.
However, because of its intensive use under tough environmental conditions, milking system performance and reliability will deteriorate over time, if proper care is not given, having a significant impact on profitability.
A correctly performed scheduled maintenance program will evaluate and benchmark the milking system operating parameters, and replace and/or clean parts that can impact machine function - both of which help to provide a continually optimal milk harvesting process.
If a dairy is not part of a scheduled maintenance program, they are compromising milk quality, cow health, and parlor performance. In short, they are compromising their profitability.
Scheduled Maintenance and Milk Quality
The Standard Plate Count (SPC) is the most common measurement used to determine the number of bacteria found in raw milk produced and stored on the farm. SPCs normally remain consistent from day to day, but increases can point to problems with dairy facility and cow hygiene - and sometimes elevated SPC counts specifically indicate a problem with milking equipment hygiene
High SPCs affect milk quality, which is important to producers because as milk quality improves, typically the amount of bonus dollars milk processors offer to dairymen improves as well.
In combination with proper facility and cow hygiene, a good scheduled maintenance program will help maintain equipment performance and, consequently, help protect milk quality.
Monitoring Air Flow Reserve
Effective air flow reserve refers to the capacity of the vacuum system to cope with unplanned air admitted into the milking system. Milking systems with less than recommended air flow reserve can influence vacuum drops during attachment and detachment of milking units, adding risks of machine related udder infections. Low air flow reserve can also influence the system’s cleaning performance by reducing turbulence, or the physical cleaning force required during the CIP washing process. Periodically measuring a vacuum system’s effective air flow reserve allows for early detection and prevention of cleaning problems, before build-up can occur, bacteria counts increase, and milk quality is affected.
Checking Air Injector Operation
Correctly adjusted and maintained air injectors are necessary to assure proper cleaning of the milking system. Air injectors control the size and length of the water slugs needed to clean within the CIP process. Their performance can be affected by blocked filters or aged components.
Checking Milk Pump Seals
A defective milk pump seal will reduce the volume of solution pumped per second. This influences milk quality by not efficiently removing milk from the pump to storage. Also, this change in pump capacity will reduce the flow of wash solutions from the receiver, causing an incomplete wash cycle due to a system “trap-out”. Replacing seals periodically, is the best way to prevent this problem.
Performing Visual Inspections
Performing visual inspections on critical points in the milking system like receivers, claws, flow meters, and milk pipelineshelps keep key components operating optimally.
Replace Rubber Goods
Aged rubber components are difficult to clean, and they harbor bacteria, driving up SPC numbers. Rubber components always need to be replaced in a timely manner.
Scheduled Maintenance and Parlor Performance
Milk quality is not the only concern associated with poor milking equipment maintenance. Over-used or worn components that are not regularly serviced can reduce milking speed and even stop machine operation. This can increase labor costs, add stress to cows (reducing production), elevate energy costs, and increase emergency service call costs.
Why Service Kits?
Parts wear differently, according to their utilization and materials used in their composition. Some parts must be replaced after 1500 hours of operation. Others have a longer use life and will not compromise the equipment’s performance until 3000, 4500, 6000 or 9000 hours of operation. The use of Service Kits will guarantee that the parts which need replacement willbe replaced at the recommended time.
Scheduled Maintenance and Cow Health
Correctly designed, sized, operated and maintained milking equipment will help to keep milk quality at optimal levels. However, malfunctions in the milking system, like defective pulsation or excessive vacuum fluctuations, can represent a significant impact on udder health.
And, even though high SCCs can represent lost milk quality bonuses, mastitis will affect profitability in several other ways. Losses in lifetime milk production, reduction in pregnancy rates, cull cows, treatment costs, and discarded milk, can have an even stronger impact on profitability.
A regular scheduled maintenance program can help protect cow health by checking important components directly related with milk quality and the incidence of clinical mastitis. The results of the performed tests can be compared to industry standards and operating parameters, and potential problems can be detected at an earlier stage, preventing more major, long-term issues.