Detection and Prevention of Milking Routine Problems
by Computerized Monitoring of Milking Irregularities
R Ginsberg1* D Rak2 A Arazi2 E Aizinbud2
1National Service for Udder Health and Milk Quality – Israel Dairy Board , 2S.A.E Afikim
An important objective in preventing possible problems while milking is reducing the number of multiple attachments of the milking cluster and other milking irregularities.
The use of automatic cluster removers (ACR) has led to a significant reduction in multiple attachments, over-milking, a reduction in machine on time and an improvement in udder health. To the best of our knowledge the effect of overriding the ACR settings have not been reviewed.
Modern milking systems allow the milkers to unnecessarily reattach the cluster or override the default ACR settings, thereby preventing the removal of the cluster at the designated flow rate. To the best of our knowledge the effect of multiple attachments or overriding the ACR settings have not been reviewed. The extensive use of computerization in Israeli dairy farms has made it possible for the first time to perform a survey of milking irregularities in large number of dairy herds.
The aim of this study was to monitor milking routine problems by computerized monitoring of milking irregularities and to demonstrate the effect of relying on the manufacturers default ACR settings in Israel, 0.48kg. milk/min.
A random survey was conducted on 30 farms, ranging in size from 35 to 600 cows all using the “Afimilk” herd management system.
On all farms three different parameters of milking irregularities were monitored over ten consecutive days namely, irregular takeoffs, “slow cows” (more than 8 minuets) and low flow time removal. Low milk flow was classified as less than 1 kg /minute. Milking routine on all farms was monitored visually with an emphasis on the milkers’ proficiency, and the preparation lag time. 47% of the herds surveyed, had less than 3%, irregular takeoffs, 40% of the herds had less than 6% “slow cows” and 62% had adequate low flow time removal.
Milkers at one of the farms with an extremely high deviation from the designated irregular takeoff levels were instructed to discontinue “overriding” the automatic cluster detachment and not to reattach the cluster once removed. The results showed no reduction in milk yield with a continued improvement in the herd DHI SCC. The average actual milking time per cow decreased and the herd manager reported that cows were noticeably calmer on entering the milking parlor.
Milk secretion in the dairy cow is influenced by various management factors as well as the milking equipment. Milking efficiency is a combination of proficiency of the milker, operation of the milking equipment, and cow factors including udder shape, temperament and physiological traits.
As dairies grow larger, the desire to milk more cows in less time has resulted in the need to monitor the management of the milking parlor and the milking process. Most manufacturers allow the milker to manually override the automatic take-off settings. In many parlors, the most conscientious workers will disable the automatic take-offs (set take-offs to manual), because of the desire to be absolutely certain that every cow is completely milked out.
Eicker et al. (2000) theorized that computerized parlor data could be used to monitor how milkers used the equipment in the parlor.
Historically cows were considered milked out when the milk flow rate decreased to 200 gr/min and most ACR’s were set to this level. Sagi 1978 and Rasmussen 1993 concluded that the cluster can be detached at a flow rate of 400 gr/min with no negative effect on the milk yield. Milking time was also significantly shorter.
Using Bou-Matic milk meters and data collection system (Dairy Equipment Company, Madison, WI) Stewart & Reid 1997 studied the effects of parlor performance on two farms by changing detacher settings. The results showed a reduction in unit on time. The managers also reported that cows were calmer in the milking parlor.
Stewart et al. 1999 showed the effects of gradually raising take off settings on a 900 cow dairy milking 3x. Flow rates increased, milking duration per cow decreased slightly and milk production increased. There are many other variables that can impact milk production, without additional data and statistical modeling it is difficult to attribute the increase in milk volume to the altered take-off settings.
Stewart and Godden et al. (2002) evaluated the effects of switch point setting changes for automatic cluster remover units on average milking duration, milk flow and milk yield in a crossover study on five commercial dairy farms. Milk flow was significantly increased at higher switch point settings for all five herds. Higher automatic cluster remover switch point settings did not have a negative effect on milk yield in any of the herds studied and were associated with increased milk yield in two of the five herds.
Maggliaro and Kensinger 2005 collected data on machine on time and milk yield using the “Afimilk” management software system (SAE Afikim, Kibbutz Afikim,Israel) on 60 cows milked 2 X. Results were similar to previous findings.
Electronic computer monitoring of herd and individual cow performance is common in Israeli dairy herds, and allowed us for the first time to perform a survey of milking irregularities in large number of dairies.
The aim of this study was to detect milking routine problems by computerized monitoring of milking irregularities and to demonstrate the effect of relying on default ACR settings.
Materials and methods
A survey was conducted on 7292 cows at 30 randomly selected farms using the milking “Irregularities Report” of the “Afimilk” management software system (SAE Afikim, Kibbutz Afikim, Israel) to monitor 1. Irregular take-off’s – kick-offs or milker intervention. 2. Slow cows – Cows milking longer than 8 minuets. 3. Low flow time removal. Low milk flow was classified as less than 1 kg /min.
All farms were monitored for ten consecutive days prior to the study. Milking routine was monitored visually with an emphasis on the milkers’ experience, skill, and preparation lag time (Reneau and Chastain 1995, Fuhrmann 2002, Mein and Reinemann 2007, DJ. Reid 2008,).Farms with extreme milking irregularities were instructed on optimum udder preparation and not to manually override the automatic take-off settings.
Table 1 Milking irregularities as determined in a survey on 30 farms (7292 cows)
Irregular take-off’s * (%)
Slow Cows (%)**
Low flow time at removal. *** (minuets)
0 – 56.9
0.5 – 2.56
1 min >
Farms attaining projected target
* not automatic takeoff ** milking time longer than 8 minuets *** less than 1Kg/min
One of the herds surveyed, with irregular take-offs considerably higher than the average, was chosen to demonstrate the justification of the manufacturers default ACR settings, 0.48kg. milk/min. This threshold of milk flow is in accordance with the reports of many authors ( Sagi,1978; Rasmussen ,1993; Stewart et al,1999, 2001 Magliaro and Kensinger 2005; …….)
Milkers were instructed not to “override” the automatic cluster detachment and to reattach the cluster only if the milk meter indicated that the cow had milked less than the designated minimum percent of milk per milking. The change in the milking routine was made in mid October, results were immediate and unmistakable.
Table 2 and Figures 1 – 3 demonstrate the difference in milking irregularities before and after changing the milking routine.
Table2. Milking Irregularities – two weeks prior and two weeks after the change in the milking routine.
Slow Cows (%)
Low flow time at
milking time (minutes)
Means of the same column with different superscripts are significantly different (P<0.05)
Table3. DHI data before and after the changing the milking routine (15/09/09)
Cows in herd
Results of this survey showed large variations in milking irregularities with many of the herds overriding the ACR settings. At these herds low milk flow time and average milk flow time were prolonged, resulting in excessive exposure to a high teat end vacuum and possible teat end damage
Overriding ACR settings can only be justified in rare cases where the cow milks slowly as a result of physiological traits.
The findings of this field study in commercial herds support the results of previous studies indicating that default ACR settings can be set at 0.48kg milk/min with no detrimental effects on milk yield, udder health and milk quality.
Computer detection of milking irregularities at one of the herds showed that it was possible to improve parlor performance and other shortcomings resulting from overriding ACR settings.
Computerized monitoring in the milking parlor provides a data base for a fast and efficient clarification of milking irregularities. This data base can be used to correct the reasons for these phenomena and monitor the results.
Eicker, S., Stewart, S., Reid D. Rapnicki, P. New tools for measuring the effect of stimulation and take off on milk flows Proc. Annual Meeting of the National Mastitis Council. 127-133 2000
Fuhrman, TJ. 2002. Quality milk starts with quality management. Proc.Annual Meeting of the National Mastitis Council 131-139. 2002
Magliaro, A.L.and Kensinger, R.S. 2005. Automatic cluster removal settings effects milk yield and machine-on time in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science 88(1): 148-153.
Mein GA, Reinemann DJ. Making the most of machine on time: What happens when the cups are on? Proc Ann Meet Natl Mast Counc, pp18-30, 2007
Rasmussen, M.D. Influence of switch level of automatic cluster removers on milking performance and udder health. Journal of Dairy Research 60(3):287-297. 1993.
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Reid, D.A. andStewart,S.C.The effects on parlor performance by variation in detacher settings Proc. Annual Meeting of the National Mastitis Council 101-104 1997
Reneau JK, Chastain JP. Effect of cow prep on milk flow, quality and parlor throughput http:// www.ansci.umn.edu/dairy/dairyupdates/du.119.htm
Sagi R. Milk flow rate and end of milking detectors. Proc. Annual Meeting of the National Mastitis Council 328-334 1978
Stewart,S.C., Eicker, S.W., Reid, D.A., and Mein, G. Using computerized data to find time for milk quality. Proc. Annual Meeting of the National Mastitis Council 116-122 1999
Stewart, S.C., Godden, S., Rapnicki, P., Reid, D.A., Johnson, A., and Eicker, S.W. Effects of automatic cluster remover settings on average milking duration, milk flow, and milk yield. Journal of Dairy Science 85(4):818-823. 2002