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There's no such thing as "TOO" clean.
Alternative Dairy Initiative
Start clean, end clean!

Milking Hygiene

Follow these steps to ensure the health and safety of your customers and animals:

Before you start:

Hygiene is the key to clean, safe milk and healthy animals. The barn, the milk room, the equipment, the animal, and even yourself need to be as clean as possible before you start. This reduces the risk of contamination dramatically. With less pathogens in the area, fewer are likely to get into the milk, the perfect breeding ground for a host of dangerous bacteria. 

Keeping a clean barn can be a challenge, especially if it's not designed for its current use. However, there's a lot you can do to keep things clean beforehand to reduce your workload at the time of milking:

1. The less time the animals spend in the barn, the better. The longer they linger, the more they urinate and deficate where you don't want them to, making more work for you!

2. Establish simple systems. Set yourself up for success by creating a system that maximizes efficiency. "Work smarter, not harder" is always the best rule to go by.

3. Start clean, end clean. If you cleaned your equipment properly after your last milking, you should be set up to start with a "clean" slate. Give all your equipment a regular once over to make sure its in good condition. If you can, sanitize your equipment before milking. *Tip! Be careful when using chlorine as as a cleaning solution on stainless steel. Over time it can lead to damage. A sign of overuse is the rusting of other metals in the vacinity.

While you're milking:

Contamination occurs DURING and AFTER milking, so don't slouch on your milking hygiene!

1. Clean the teats of visible dirt/manure. If you have to wash the entire udder, be sure to dry it before continuing. Also, using individual wipes or paper towels reduces the potential for contamination than reusing udder cloths. 

2. Pre-dip. Using non-return dip cups, automatic foamers, germicidal wipes, etc. you should cover the entirety of the teat skin surfaces but not the udder floor. Allow 30 seconds for solution to kill bacteria (this can be combined with forestripping time).

3. Forestrip. This gives you an opportunity to feel/check each teat while working the disinfectant into the skin surface. This also removes the keratin plug and stimulates the animal to let her milk down. Strip several streams for a total of about 10 seconds. 

4. Dry. At this step you MUST use an individual towel for each cow! Laundered towels should be dry. Wipe all pre-dip off teat skin and use a clean portion of the towel to wipe the teat ends. 

5. Milk. If using a milking unit, try to attach it with minimal air admission and within 60-90 seconds of teat prep. For hand milkers, keep your hands/wrists up and dry to they are not risking contamination to the milk or teats. For all, keep the area under the cows clean during milking. 

6. Post-dip. This should be applied immediately after milking and cover 3/4 of the length of the teat. During extremely cold weather, allow the dip to dry, or leave it on for 30 seconds, then blotch it dry with a clean towel. Teat dip dispensers should be cleaned at the end of every milking. 

It is important to follow these six steps to produce a clean, safe product and reduce the risk of udder infections. In addition, the milking parlor should be a quiet, relaxed environment, for the benefit of yourself and the animals. After some practice, your routine will flow naturally and you'll be able to milk stress-free. *Tip! Check your barn for metal parts that might clang during milking and pad them if you can to ensure a calm, relaxing environment.

A Note on Oxytocin and Fast Milkout:

The manual stimulation during forestripping will start the oxytocin response which results in milk letdown. In order to milkout as quickly as possible, design your milking routine around the oxytocin response. Allowing 60-90 seconds between forestripping and beginning to milk optimizes the release of oxytocin. So remember: 10 seconds of manual stimulation and 60-90 seconds lag time, then milk!

Clean-up:

Your clean-up routine will be specific to your barn and milking system. Each piece of equipment should be cleaned and sanitized and stored properly. Again, set yourself up for the next time you milk to save time and frustration!

Some things anyone can do include:

1. Set up a equipment-check schedule. This ensures that each piece of your equipment gets checked regularly for leaks, oil levels, sitting fluids, and generally functionality.

2. Write up a cleaning routine checklist. You can post it on the wall/door of your milk room so that you never have to worry about forgetting. 

3. Keep some back-up parts on hand. This way, if you notice some cracked rubber tubing, you can replace it then and there and not have to run out for the new part. 

You'll have your own milking routine depending on your herd size, barn setup, type of equipment. Create a system for yourself that maximizes efficiency, animal and human comfort, and milk production. 

Happy Milking!

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