GIVING MILKING machines an interim service according to the number of hours worked and following this with a weekly check to pick up problems early can reduce mastitis incidence.

Speaking at a DEFRA-funded meeting on mastitis management, ADAS dairy consultant Brian Pocknee advised moving away from a routine parlour service at six or 12-month intervals.

“Have the parlour serviced every 750 hours – and don’t forget to include the hours spent cleaning,” he told producers in Suffolk. “A major service at 1500 hours equates to six months when a parlour is operating for eight hours a day.”

With cow numbers and yields creeping up, even relatively new parlours installed in the past five years were working longer. The parlour not only carried mastitis infection between cows, but also affected teat condition and, therefore, the first line of udder defence, said Dr Pocknee.

“Checking the parlour regularly is time consuming, but this must be weighed up against a case of mastitis taking up 10-15 minutes at each milking.”

Liners should be changed every 2500 cow milkings, not forgetting the dump bucket cluster. Aged liners milked more slowly, provided less efficient teat massage and increase the amount of residual milk.

Dr Pocknee suggested that a weekly – but preferably daily – check should include examining cluster air bleeds for blockage, measuring the speed of the pulsators and testing the V-belt on the vacuum pump. This was in addition to noting teat condition at the end of each milking.

“At every milking, look at the vacuum gauge. They tend to be factory set at 50kPa and the working vacuum isn’t altered by the dealer at installation.”