Milking machines are often blamed for contributing towards mastitis in dairy cows, and this can be the case if the machine is running incorrectly or inefficiently.
But Ian Ohnstad, milking technology specialist at The Dairy Group said it was important to look at the bigger picture.
He said although the standard requirements for milking machine testing looked solely at the performance of the machine, critically they were missing the addition of the operator and the cattle.
Mr Ohnstad said purely focusing on the dynamic performance of a milking parlour meant there was the probability some critical points would be missed.
He explained the dynamic milk machine test looked at the performance of the machine, including vacuum level and stability, mouth piece vacuum, pulsation and liner slippage, among other factors.
But to gain a proper indication of how successful milking was and the impact it was having on cows, Mr Ohnstad said milking time evaluations should be carried out.
He added there was lots of equipment available for milk machine testing, but milking time evaluation could be carried out by farmers or vets by using the International Dairy Federation milking time evaluation booklet, a vacuum gauge and their eyes and ears to look and listen to what was going on.
He said good preparation and stimulation of the cow prior to the attachment of milking units was vital.
Mr Ohnstad said: “Prep-lag time varies with the stage of lactation and milking frequency.
“Staler cows and cows which are milked three times a day need longer. Aim for 60-90 seconds from first contact, and no more than two minutes.”
Teat stimulation needed to be at least 15 seconds per cow to get adequate oxytocin secretion and stimulation also needed to be quite intense, he said.
“If we get that right we should be looking at extracting 50 per cent of the milk in the first two minutes of attachment,” he added.
“If we do not get the stimulation right and the lag time is too short, we can get bi-modal milking, leading to over milking.”
Mr Ohnstad said pre-milking routine needed to be consistent between all operators. A protocol should be put in place to ensure everyone was carrying out the same pre-milking routine.
To avoid over-milking, the cluster should be removed within 20 seconds of the cessation of milk flow, and he said it was important to check automatic cluster removal systems were set up correctly.
As a rule of thumb, when milking twice a day, the automatic cluster removers should have been set to a low flow rate of 300-500g/minute.
On three times a day it should have been 600-800g/minute.
Mr Ohnstad said operator cleanliness was also important in stopping the spread of mastitis between cows.
“Observe how often milkers change their gloves and look at points of regular contact, such as the buttons on keypads of milking point controllers to assess their cleanliness,” he said.