A&L Laboratories is rolling out its new and comprehensive Quality Milk Program to assist U.S. dairy operations in the quest for higher quality milk.
“In the U.S., the pressure is on to reduce somatic cell counts and meet standards that may be imposed by the European Union,” said A&L Laboratories president and CEO Roger Beers. “To remain competitive, producers here need to consistently deliver a product that meets or exceeds the standards set forth by the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO).”
Every dairy operation should establish a “whole farm approach” quality milk team from across disciplines, advised Beers. This team should include the farm’s veterinarian, nutritionist, milking team leader and other relevant employees, milking equipment dealer, chemical supplier, financier and a quality milk specialist.
This diverse team is needed because the components of a good quality milk program span many aspects of the farm operation, and many of these components can be managed systematically:
- Housing, cow comfort, welfare and handling (for calves, heifers, dry cows, and milking cows)
- Teat health
- Milking machine maintenance and performance
- Milking procedures
- Overall farm cleanliness
When a farm elects to participate in A&L’s Quality Milk Program, an A&L quality milk specialist joins the farm’s team and works with team members to develop a results-oriented program. Steps in the program development include:
• Establish quality goals — SCC, PI and SPC are metrics by which the program can be measured. Other useful metrics are Lab Pasteurized Count (LPC) and Coliform Count (E. coli).
• Examine current residue build-up on equipment —This assessment determines whether CIP is working properly. Amount and types of residue buildup give clues as to where problems are occurring and changes can be made to improve CIP performance.
• Evaluate housing/environment — Provide a clean, dry, comfortable and fly-free environment for calves, heifers and cows. Bedding additives can assist with sanitation by absorbing ammonia and moisture, drying the bedding and eliminating bacteria growth.
• Inspect and analyze CIP — Proper equipment cleaning involves a warm water rinse until water runs clear, followed by detergent rinse, acid wash and sanitizer. Proper water temperatures are crucial for CIP effectiveness and decrease the amount of cleaning products needed in the process. Water hardness and quality should also be evaluated so that proper amounts of cleaning products are used.
• Audit chemical product handling — Have an inventory control system in place with safety training for anyone handling chemical products.
• Evaluate teat health — Score teats regularly to benchmark and track health; look for high-quality teat dips that increase blood flow and prevent chapping and frostbite.
• Analyze milking machine performance — Ensure that the vacuum pump and regulator are working properly. Ensure that automatic takeoffs are set for proper milkout. Preventative maintenance should be performed every 1,000 to 1,200 hours.
• Perform a milking audit — Proper milking procedures increase the amount and quality of milk produced. The farm’s Quality Milk Team should establish and supervise milker training according to the following standard procedures:
- Clip udders for cleanliness.
- Remove excess soils from teats.
- Fore-strip – check milk and udder for mastitis.
- Pre-dip teats with an effective product or use a sanitizing wipe.
- Wipe and stimulate teat with a circular downward motion. Be sure to clean and sanitize teat ends. Milkers can be taught how to emulate a calf approaching the udder, which also stimulates milk flow.
- Provide good massage to increase milk production.
- Attach milker unit when letdown occurs and adjust for proper alignment. Milk only dry teats.
- Prevent liner slips.
- Do not over milk.
- Shut off vacuum before removing milker unit.
- Dip teats immediately after unit is removed. Use an effective product that has high levels of skin conditioners.
- Maintain clean teat dip cups.
For farms participating in the Quality Milk Program, specific metrics can be used to measure success and tell producers where improvement is needed or possible. The A&L Laboratories standards for benchmarking are:
- Somatic Cell Count (SCC) < 200,000
- Standard Plate Count (SPC) < 5,000
- Preliminary Incubation Count (PIC) < 10,000
- Lab Pasteurized Count (LPC) < 10
- Coliform Count (E. coli) < 10
Beers says that focusing on quality milk is financially beneficial when premiums are earned and production is increased through better milking techniques.
“Even more importantly, it’s the right thing to do,” Beers asserts. “Our cows are healthier when we pay attention to the best practices described in our Quality Milk Program. And in the end, our consumers deserve the very best milk our cows, people and systems can produce.”
To learn more, call (800) 225-3832 or visit www.AandL-Labs.com.