Milk Quality and Management
Our team of Milk Advisors work with our local farmers to ensure the best industry practices and highest quality and hygiene standards are maintained.
Each year our best performing farmers are acknowledged for their dedication to producing the highest quality milk through our Milk Quality Awards. The awards are a celebration of success and progress towards dairy excellence.
Milk Quality Standards:
- Somatic Cell Count (SCC): is a result of Mastitis infections. Early detection of mastitis gives better cure rate and minimises infection spread within the heard. A good milking technique and routine in the parlour will aid early detection. Good hygiene is a key, particularly when cows are housed as the teats may not been as clean as usual.Low levels of SCC (<200,000/ ml) are desirable to ensure good extraction of protein from milk.High levels of SCC also depress other constituent levels in milk, such as Lactose.
Best practice to maintain low levels:
- Test your milking machine annually and change liners at 2000 milkings;
- Monitor bulk tank SCC closely – acting straight away can stop SCC rising higher and stop the spread of infection;
- Always wear clean gloves when milking. Bare hands harbour up to 98% more bacteria than gloved hand.
- Always apply cluster on clean and dry teats, only wash dirty teats and always dry with an individual paper towel.
- Forestripping all cows is the most effective way of identifying clinical cases early. It may appear time consuming particularly, but it actually encourage faster milking, through natural oxytocin let-down.
- Use a CMT (Californian Mastitis Test) paddle to identify infected quarter that may not show any clinical signs (i.e. sub-clinical infection).
- Culture milk samples. Early identification of the bacterial challenged in the heard can help with treatment choice.
- Treat appropriately, discussing with your vet the herd history, culture results and cow history. Ensure that the appropriate withdrawal period is observed and cows treated are well marked and easy identifiable to be segregated from the bulk tank.
- Teat-dip all cows immediately after every milking is the single best thing you can do to prevent new infections. Ensure all teat area is well covered with teat disinfectant.
- Use clean or new filter sock before each milking and check for clots after every milking.
- Dry off cows abruptly – do not milk once a day.
If you wish to avail of further information and details you can contact our Farm Services Office to purchase a CellCheck Farm Guidelines for Mastitis Control. Also, visit CellCheck on www.animalhealthireland.ie
- Total Bacteria Count (TBC): Low levels (<50,000/ml) are essential to ensure the manufacture of high quality milk as directly increases the shelf life of milk and allow the Society to manufacture the highest quality final products for our customers.High levels of TBC are an indicator of on-farm general hygiene conditions, milking equipment cleanliness and milk storage (temperature and time).
Best practice to maintain low levels:
An effective dairy hygiene programme should include four individual stages:
- General and pre-milking hygiene: paddocks, surrounding areas and collecting yards should be maintained in clean conditions and no accumulations of dung; milking parlour should be kept clean and tidy; cubicle beds clean and dry, clip cows tails and udders;
- Udder hygiene: a regular cleaning routine before milking to ensure minimal bacteria on the teat skin.
- Milking plant hygiene: an effective cleaning routine should be put in place to clean the milking plant after each milking. Check regularly the milking machine for milk deposits as they provide perfect condition for bacteria to grow. See example of Weekly Milking Machine wash routine.
- Bulk Tank hygiene: ensure tank is serviced annually, carry out routine inspection, check for milk deposits, pay attention to the lid, outlet pipe, agitator, check spray heads for blockages, check filter on water intake. See example of Bulk Tank wash routine.
- Thermoduric Bacteria: are organisms capable of surviving the pasteurisation process, (under the spore form) and carry over into the final product, causing quality defects (reducing the shelf life of pasteurized milk.) Levels higher than 1000/ml is generally the result of poor cow hygiene and milking equipment, (especially ineffective hot wash routines).Sources of Thermoduric bacteria: silage, faeces, animal bedding and soil.
Best practice to maintain low levels:
- General housekeeping and clean environment;
- Present clean cows for milking, ensure teats are clean;
- Change liners twice a year and rubber wear at least once a year (bacteria can harbour in between the rubber wear cracks);
- Hot wash at least once a week, ensure water temperature is 75°-80°C
- Do not reuse hot wash solution!
- Use correct volume of water, detergents or acid in the wash routine;
- Descale plant and bulk tank weekly or depending on hard water;
- Service milking machine annually.
- Temperature: It requires that all milk stored on farms for human consumption must be stored in a refrigerated tank designed and equipped to avoid contamination. The milk in the tank must be immediately cooled and held at temperature between 2°-4°C. Efficient cooling with good hygiene can deliver quality milk.
Recommendations on storage of milk:
- Milk temperature should reach ~4.5°C within 30 minutes of milking
- Plate cooling helps (35°C reduced to 18°C Approximately)
- Tanks must have adequate agitation of 90 seconds every 15 minutes
- Accurate temperature control during storage (3-4°C)
- Lactose: Is a natural sugar found in milk and is an important indicator of late lactation milk. Milk with lactose levels below 4.2% is unsuitable for processing into premium products and can cause serious problems in product quality, flavour and stability.
Recommendations to maintain milk Lactose levels >4.2%:
- Dry off cow producing less that 9 litres milk/day
- Dry off high cell count cows
- Ensure milking machine is working properly
- Ensure no contamination with excess water
- Trichloromethane (TCM): Excessive chlorine traces in milk pose a serious health risk. If active chlorine comes in contact with an organic material such as milk, chlorine binds to the organic compound and forms total organic chlorine, TCM.
Recommendation to minimise the level of TCM in milk:
- Sufficient pre-rinsing (rinsing of the machine after milking and before circulation of the cleaning and disinfection solvent) is necessary to remove all traces of the milk.
- Only the recommended and accurate volume of cleaning and disinfection solvent should be used.
All cleaning and disinfection solvents should be purchased from reputable suppliers.
- Sufficient post-rinsing of the machine after circulation of the cleaning and disinfection solvent is necessary to remove all traces.
- *N.B. Non-chlorine based detergents can be used in wash routine. There is a large variety of non- chlorine detergents available on the market.
- Residues in Milk:
7.1 Antibiotics/ Inhibitors: It is an offense to supply milk containing antibiotic/ inhibitor residue. Every load of milk is tested for the presence of antibiotics / inhibitors.If a load fails, each milk supplier on that load will be tested. The individual whose sample tests positive will be responsible for all costs associated with the contaminated load and its disposal.If there is any doubt about the milk tank being contaminated, DO NOT present that tank for collection until it has been checked and clear by the Society Laboratory.Milk suppliers are advised to ensure that their farm insurance will provide cover in the event of such an incident.
Recommendation to avoid antibiotic residue in milk:
- Clearly identify treated cows
- Use antibiotics from reputable manufacturers
- Using chemicals only for the purpose for which they are approved
- Observing withholding periods and discard milk for the recommended period
- Record antibiotic treatments on the parlour notice board
- Milk treated cows last in the heard or in separate bucket plant
- Dry cow product should be appropriate to the length of the dry period
7.2 Added water: It is illegal to sell milk containing added water. Added water reduces the value of milk by diluting the protein and other milk components. Regular monitoring of milk for added water is determined by the freezing point using a Cryoscope. Levels of added water in milk should not exceed 1%.
Common causes of added water:
- Transfer of the milk pipeline inlet to the bulk tank before rinse water has been fully drained
- Careless drainage of water from the milking plant after washing
- Leaking of equipment such as plate cooler, faulty valves
- Sweeping through milk water to clear pipelines
- Switching on automatic cleaning too early
7.3 Sediment: in general is due to poor pre-milking hygiene procedures that allow soil and other materials to enter the milking system. Sediment in milk is measured by filtering the milk through a fine filter.
- Filter socks must be used at each milking and must be used once.
- They must also be removed before the wash cycle begins in the milking machine.
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