Farmworker cleaning milking clustersMilking equipment must be kept clean at all times © Tim Scrivener

Two Northern Irish dairy farmers have been fined £750 each, and ordered to pay an offenders levy, for failing to keep their farm and dairy clean enough.

Selwyn Ball and Martin Ball from Dromara, County Down, were issued with Remedial Action Notices (RANs) following a series of inspections by the Department of Agriculture’s Agri-Food Inspection Branch.

But on 7 September 2016, it was found that four RANs, issued under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006, had been breached.

See also: 6 ways dairy producers can raise milk hygiene levels

As a consequence, the two brothers pleaded guilty at Craigavon courthouse to one charge that, on 7 September 2016:

  • the dairy was not kept pest-proofed and protected
  • the bulk tank exterior was not clean and miscellaneous items were present on the tank lid
  • unnecessary items were present in the dairy
  • collection/dispersal areas adjacent to the milking parlour were not sufficiently clean

Persistent breaches

The Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, which brought the case, said such instances of non-compliance were rare, but if producers persistently failed to meet hygiene standards, then they risked being fined.

A spokesman for the FSA NI said the booklet Milk Hygiene on the Dairy Farm (PDF) provided basic guidelines for operating around the farmyard and in the parlour and dairy, and the vast majority of farmers managed to adhere to this.

“On the rare occasions something like this gets to court, it is either because the farmer has been particularly obstinate, or more likely because their circumstances mean they are so stretched they just can’t keep on top of everything.”

Top tips for avoiding contamination

Animal cleanliness

  • All animals should be kept clean
  • All lying areas should be of sufficient size and should be kept clean and dry
  • Passageways and access routes should be free from accumulations of dung and slurry
  • Fields, tracks and gateways should be well maintained and kept free from accumulations of dung, slurry and mud

Milking practice

  • The foremilk from each animal must be examined for physical/chemical/organoleptic abnormalities by the milker or a method achieving similar results, for example, conductivity measurements for robotic units
  • Where abnormal milk is detected this milk must be rejected
  • Teats, udders and adjacent parts must be clean before milking
  • Hands, contact surfaces and milking equipment must be kept clean at all times

Milking equipment

  • Milk contact surfaces must be effectively cleaned and where appropriate, disinfected immediately after each milking
  • All equipment must be kept clean and in good condition and rubber parts changed regularly. It is recommended that teat cup liners are changed after 2,500 milkings
  • The outside of clusters and milking equipment must be kept clean to prevent the spread of infection between cows by the milking operator

Milk storage and cooling

  • Milk must be protected from contamination during transfer and storage
  • Milk must be cooled as quickly as possible to minimise bacterial multiplication
  • The use of plate/tubular coolers is beneficial in this regard and can reduce cooling costs
  • Bulk tanks must be cleaned and disinfected after each milk collection and kept in good condition

Source: Milk Hygiene on the Dairy Farm, DAERA