10 November 1995

Best in the West for cow cleanliness

By Jessica Buss

SOMERSET dairy farmer Linn Ratsey has secured Milk Marques "Best in the West" award for the highest milk hygiene quality in the companys west of England area.

Mr Ratsey won by maintaining average TBCs of under one and a rolling average somatic cell count of 56,000 cells/ml for the past year.

Cow cleanliness is all-important to Mr Ratsey, his herdsman Dave Bowles, who does most of the milking, and his assistant Richard Collier.

TBCs and cell counts stay low for most of the year rising only in the autumn when cows are drying off or calving. Clinical mastitis is also low with only 12 cases treated in the last year.

"Most of these occurred in the winter," claims Mr Ratsey. "Cows are housed in cubicles with mats and are bedded on sawdust. The beds are cleaned thoroughly twice a day and then passageways are scraped – so cows always go back to a clean shed after milking."

In the parlour Mr Bowles washes every cow with a warm water and disinfectant using a spray hose.

"A new paper towel is used to dry each cow," says Mr Bowles. "We start from the neck of the teat and wipe downwards – never touching the teat end. When a dirty cow comes in, she is washed and left while the others are dried and their clusters put on, so the water has time to drain off before wiping dry."

After milking cows are dipped with an iodine and lanolin dip mixed according to the makers instructions. Mr Bowles is a stickler for adhering to the rules.

When the parlour is washed, he also follows the chemicals instructions and is strict about the timing of the hot wash. He checks the water is hot enough with his own "steam on face" test. He also washes the vacuum line every day with 4 litres (0.8gal) of hot circulation water.

"The milking parlour is tested once a year and we usually follow any recommendations providing its not too expensive, says Mr Ratsey. "The parlour is 12 years old but we try to keep it updated."

Cows and youngstock are the farms only enterprises so there are no distractions with other stock and crops.

Mr Ratsey believes this helps everyone to focus on the cows needs.