8 November 1996

Alternatives to chlorine and caustic soda

BASICS of the dairy chemicals used by farmers have changed little for almost a century. Introduction of advanced technology is not encouraged by the sheer success of chlorine and caustic soda. As relatively simple chemicals, they have proved reliable and foolproof for those farmers who use them.

It is possible, however, that huge industrial investment in their production has not encouraged innovation. Although simple and relatively safe, they are not without environmental and safety difficulties. Some of the disadvantages are claimed to be met by alternative chemistry, such as the use of peroxyacetic acid (Oxyclenz) which uses free oxygen to do the work now widely performed by chlorine.

Richard Stocker of supplier RS Hygiene, says that it is hard to establish new products and methods, emphasising that the two go together. He, therefore, welcomes the relaxation in legislation that has allowed his own product to be sold. However, he says there is still a need for an independent testing agency to provide buyers with product data.

But he advises farmers to treat all new products with caution, particularly emphasising the risks arising from using them in traditional ways. "You must read the label and follow instructions," he emphasises.

Another recent innovation, although still based on chlorine technology, is the Agrisept tablet sold for pre-milking treatments, pre- and post-milking teat immersion, hand wash and cluster rinse. It is based on sodium dichloroisocyanurate, and says marketing manager Dr Kim Thompson, its efficacy has been demonstrated by numerous laboratory and field trials. He believes that buyers should ask for such details before buying dairy chemicals.

"Ask for data to back up the claims being made," he advises.n


&#8226 Opt for well-proven products with well-known names.

&#8226 Treat all new products with caution.

&#8226 Read label and follow manufacturers instructions.

&#8226 Need for independent testing agency.