Monitor milking machines

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Now is a good time to review milking machine maintenance and set in place a routine for regular checks throughout the year.

Dr John Penry who leads Dairy Australia's Countdown Downunder project said milking machine problems can easily occur if the maintenance routine is not adequate or if events, such as floods, push milking machine function to its limits.

"If more than one person milks in your shed, it is important to assign these checking tasks to particular people, and ensure that the right person is alerted to any problems that are found or suspected. Your milking machine technician is an important part of the off-farm team," Dr Penry said.

The Countdown Downunder Farm Guideline 6 outlines the essential daily, weekly and monthly checks for milking machines. In addition, all milking machines require an annual dry test to maintain proper performance.

Daily and weekly checks should be conducted by milking staff as part of their regular responsibilities. Monthly checks should be done by the herd owner or manager or other skilled observer.

Call a milking machine technician if you observe any abnormalities during these regular checks. If you are unsure about teat condution during milking it is worth having a trained advisor assess the milking plant and process via the Countdown milking time tests.

Daily checks

Check the air admission holes (air vents). Remove any debris.

Check the vacuum gauge. (high line: 48-50kPa; mid line: 46-48kPa; low line: 42-45kPa).

Listen to pulsators. The sound should be both regular and intermittent, and the same for all pulsators.

Watch milk entering the receival can. Flow should be even, without flooding or slugging.

Check teats as the cups come off at the end of milking. Look for discolouration, swelling or hardness, unusual sensitivity to touch.Examine teat openings for signs of cracking or sores.

Check cow behaviour. Are cows nervousoruncomfortable or stepping or kicking?

Weekly checks

Check for twisted liners. Align marks on mouthpiece and tail of liner.

Check liner condition. Look for distortion of the mouthpiece lip or holes in the short milk tube.

Check filters on pulsator airlines especially in sheds where the filters are close to the feeders.

Monthly checks

Check ‘effective reserve' and regulator function.

Count cup squawks and slips requiring correction by milker. A running tally over 15 minutes of milking provides a guide. If it is more than 10 slips per 100 cows the machine requires maintenance.