POOR milking machine maintenance on many dairy farms is failing to prevent faults that can cause damage to udder health.
This is the finding of Brian Nicholls, lecturer in farm mechanisation at Reaseheath College, Cheshire. He surveyed 250 milking machines and found only 6% complied with British Standards for milking machines.
A pulsation fault was found in 71% of the machines tested, 45% had a regulator fault, and 23% showed incorrect vacuum levels. All these may cause discomfort and injury to teat tissue, he said.
In a further study of 100 milking machine tests, 56% were found to have faulty vacuum pumps. "These faults included poor output, worn drive belts, loose pulleys on the drive shafts, no oil and no guiding on the belts," he said.
He stressed the need for a regular service programme including daily, weekly, monthly and six-monthly or annual tasks (see box). This would depend on the type of installation, herd size, milk yields and washing system.
and whether milking two or three times a day.
• Daily: Oil level.
• Weekly: Belt tension, belt guard system, pulley alignment and security.
• Monthly: Exhaust system, oil consumption and adjustment.
• Six-monthly: Vacuum pump performance.
• Filters: Clean or replace regularly depending on conditions.