Parlour Maintenance

1. Vacuum pumps work long and hard, so it’s important they get oiled properly too.

Top up oil reservoir with correct oil and ensure oiling system is free of dust, which can prevent sufficient oil from getting through to the bearings and vanes.

Routine servicing should ensure vanes and belts are checked for cracking, tension and alignment, and adjusted or replaced where necessary.

2. Modern washing systems are largely automated, but all need to operate at adequate temperature – above 55C – and be run for long enough to clean and disinfect properly. Auto-wash systems will trigger alarms when faults occur.

3. Rubber pipes can quickly become cracked and perished, with failure manifesting itself in air or milk leakage.

Mr Baines suggests replacing all black rubber pipes every year, and liners every 2500 milkings to ensure performance and hygiene is maintained.

“There’s a cost involved, and it’s easy to cut corners here, but it’s easy to lose performance and introduce udder health and milk quality problems when pipes are not changed regularly,” he says.

4. Plate cooler should be checked for leaks.

“The multi-layered coolers have rubber gaskets between each section,” he says.

“Providing they’re not leaking either milk or water, it’s not necessary to dismantle them,” he says.

“But Bactoscan problems might mean taking a closer look inside to remove any build up of milk deposits.”

5. Pulsators‘ function is critical to milking performance and udder health.

Their operation causes the pulsation chamber of the teat cup to fluctuate between vacuum and atmospheric pressure, causing the liner to open and close.

Doing so maintains blood circulation in the animal’s teat, which encourages milk flow.

They operate 60 times/minute, have high airflow – typically 30 litres/min – and are prone to dust and dirt ingress.

Faulty pulsators generally need specialist attention, but checking and cleaning the air filter on the clean air supply line can alleviate many simple problems.

6. Vacuum regulators should be inspected for dust and dirt build-up around their openings and cleaned as necessary.

Their purpose is to maintain vacuum level and ensure there’s enough capacity in the system.

When it fails to operate correctly the regulator can have a direct affect on milking performance and udder health.

7. Service partners are becoming increasingly important to maintain the more complex elements of milking equipment, such as ACRs and electronics.

A regular maintenance plan is important to ensure that parlours run smoothly at all times.

While the risk of breakdown cannot be eliminated, it can be minimised by replacing worn components during scheduled maintenance.

8. Claw vents can become blocked by dust or dirt, which in turn causes the pulsation effect to be lost and milk transfer to struggle.

In extreme cases, the cluster can fall from the udder, though a blockage here usually shows up in the milk line as a solid stream of milk rather than milk being transported through the pipes with air bubbles.

9. Vacuum gauge gives a visual indication of overall plant function.

Major variation on reading can be a clue to a number of problem areas such as regulator and/or vacuum pump capacity.

It’s important to ensure the gauge isn’t jammed – if so, it will read the same value when the vacuum pump is stopped.

10. Milk pumps contain a one-way valve to allow the pump to deliver sufficient pressure to overcome vacuum pressure.

When the valve shows signs of failure, the pump will struggle to empty the collection vessel and push milk to the bulk tank.

There’s also a seal between the motor’s shaft and the milk pump housing – this can start to leak over time and may result in hygiene problems.

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