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Handy hints: Disinfection and dairy parlour hygiene vital

With pressure on profit margin more pronounced than ever, it is vital to ensure poor parlour hygiene is not impacting your bottom line.

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Being aware of hygiene bonuses and penalties can have a considerable effect on the monthly milk cheque, explains Alison Clark, Progiene business unit manager.


“The average farm with 100 cows giving an average of 7,500kg and with a bactoscan of 55(‘000) will be losing out on average on payments of £3,750 per year,” she says.


When it comes to disinfecting milking parlours, internal and external surfaces need to be treated differently.


Internally, the parlour pipework builds up a layer of fat and protein, and externally; milkstone, muck and hard water deposits need to be removed.


Internal cleaning


Mrs Clark says: “The build-up of fat and protein deposits harbour bacteria, so farmers must ensure they are using a disinfectant [biocide] which is fit for purpose.”


The Biocidal Products Directive (BPD) is regulated by the EU and advises on the uses and suitability of biocidal products.

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For cleaning internal parlour milk-line pipe-work, Mrs Clark advises swapping between acid and alkali detergents for morning and afternoon parlour washes as each are focused on cleaning and removing different deposits from the system.


Alkali-based detergents contain three basic components, the alkalinity emulsifies fats and the chlorine element peptises protein to break it down and remove it, thirdly sequestrates inhibit the build-up of scale from organic deposits left behind by milk and water.


Acid-based detergents usually contain phosphoric or nitric acid and work to resolve different issues to the alkaline detergent. The acidity dissolves minerals such as calcium, the disinfection element kills bacteria and surfactants keep all removed substances in suspension.


Mrs Clarke says: “Alkali-based detergents should be used with the hot wash once per day, we suggest in the morning, followed by an acid-based detergent in the afternoon, this can be used with either a hot or cold wash.

“Overnight, any dirty water in the pipes can encourage the multiplication of bacteria, so it is important that the final rinse contains a disinfectant such as a 5 per cent peracetic acid.”


Peracetic acid maintains the quality of water in the pipes by impeding the growth of bacteria, it breaks down into oxygen, carbon dioxide and water and it does not leave a taint.


Hypochlorite disinfectant would leave a taint in the milk and is not as long-acting as peracetic acid.


It is essential that parlours are properly maintained.


All rubber wear and tubing should be changed as specified by the manufacturer’s guidelines and a static milk machine test should be carried out every six months to check vacuum and pulsation rates.

Washing a parlour effectively


The minimum volume of water recommended to wash a parlour effectively is:

  • 10 litres of water per unit for rinsing
  • 10 litres of water per unit for cleaning
  • 10 litres of water per unit for final rinse
  • The wash cycle should consist of the following components:
  • A tepid pre-rinse
  • Seven-minute main wash with the temperature not falling below 54degC
  • Finish with a cold wash to close up rubber wear to avoid leaks

External parlour cleaning


For cleaning the external portion of the parlour, Mrs Clark advises rinsing clusters before each milking but do not use a cold volume washer to rinse units while the hot water wash is circulating as this could decrease the temperature, decreasing the efficiency of the wash.


The parlour should be washed down after each milking to remove any muck and milk spillages left behind.


Mrs Clarke says: “Externally, a long-cling foam product is very effective when used once-a-week on stall-work and cladding. It can even be used on clusters and rinsed off with a low volume washer system.


“An alkali foam removes any organic material including, muck, fat and protein.”


Bactoscan readings


If an unexplainably high bactoscan reading is being experienced, there are a number of reasons this could be happening.


Sometimes a bio-film can build-up within the pipework and peracetic acid is unable to remove it, this requires a chlorinated detergent.


This bio-film may also accumulate in the water header tank, and can cause problems with bactoscan readings which are difficult to attribute to the parlour. Ensure header tanks are cleaned regularly.


Mrs Clark says: “Some high bactoscan readings can be a result of an insufficiently cleaned bulk tank. The correct sized water heater should be fitted which must be dedicated to talk washing to allow it to fulfil requirements for rinsing and washing.


"The main wash requires 1 per cent of the volume of the bulk tank, for example a 10,000-litre tank would require a main wash volume of 100 litres of water.”


Ice bank tanks require a 10-minute cold wash containing iodine or another acid-based detergent after each milk collection and weekly, a minimum of 10 minutes contact time with a bulk tank powered applied as a paste.


Direct expansion talks and silo tanks require a minimum of 54degC hot wash containing a caustic-based detergent for a maximum of 10 minutes after each milk collection and weekly and an acid-based liquid detergent wash at the same temperature for the same length of time.


“Many parlours use udder wash droppers to clean teats or rinse off units during milking, however often warm water has been sat in the pipes for a number of hours between milkings and growing bacteria such as mastitis pseudomonas which can then be transferred from the clusters onto the udder causing severe mastitis,” she says.

Dealing with bovine TB

If a farm is challenged with TB, it is important that specific disinfectants are used which have been tested to treat mycobacterium paratuberculosis.


This information is displayed on the labels of Defra approved disinfectants.


More information:

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