4/09 MILK QUALITY: In Tough Times, Keep Milking Facilities, Equipment Top-of-Mind

By Keith Engel


In tough economic climates, the first reaction is often to cut costs to curb short-term spending. When considering these decisions, evaluate what effect the short-term cuts will have on long-term goals and profitability. At a time when quality and efficiency are more important than ever, carefully evaluate these areas to harvest the highest-quality milk and optimize returns.


Maintain quality

Whether it’s quality milk, quality of work or ration quality, don’t let short-term decisions affect long-term results. Look for opportunities to save money while getting the same results, or to make additional investments resulting in higher returns. Ask yourself, “What level of change can be made to gain higher profits without affecting the dairy’s profitability long-term?” Make sure that short-term decisions affecting your dairy align with long-term goals.


Evaluate labor needs

Managing your labor force in a more efficient manner will save time and money. Evaluate job performance and ways to organize work to gain efficiencies while maintaining quality procedures. Have key performance indicators in place that align with your current goals and share them with your employees so everyone knows what is expected.

Schedule and organize work to save on labor. An example of this is to evaluate the milking routine and shifts. Ask yourself:

• Can we reach the same efficiency and quality of milking procedures with one less person?

• Can we reorganize the milking routine to milk more cows per hour? 

• Will it work to have two 12-hour shifts rather than three 8-hour shifts? 

Keep your quality goals in mind when making labor changes. It does not mean cutting corners, but rather organizing the work to optimize efficiency, milk quality and profitability.


Mark and date product level on the barrel to minimize waste. If large fluctuations in product usage are seen, check to ensure the product is not being wasted while still providing proper teat coverage.

Mark and date product level on the barrel to minimize waste. If large fluctuations in product usage are seen, check to ensure the product is not being wasted while still providing proper teat coverage.

Monitor usage, limit waste

Minimizing waste saves money. To limit waste, you must first monitor normal product use levels. Mark and date product barrels each week to quickly evaluate usage, comparing it with previous usage. In regards to teat dip, if you find that more dip is being used now than in the previous week, you can investigate if cow numbers went up or if dip is being wasted while filling cups or during application. If usage declines, check dip coverage. 

Work with your supplier to manage inventory, ensuring you have the right amount of product without running out or overstocking. Make sure to evaluate product needs vs. results.


Maintenance before failure

Keeping your milking system well-maintained and optimized ensures the most-efficient and highest-quality milk harvest. Scheduling maintenance before failure will reduce emergency calls, unexpected downtime and emergency labor charges. 

Regularly scheduled maintenance provides additional benefits, including:

• added efficiencies. Regular maintenance ensures machines are harvesting milk in a timely fashion, allowing for complete milk-out and advanced milk quality.

• reduced parlor downtime. You can schedule regular maintenance and predict when the parlor will be down. Emergency calls can result in more downtime at unexpected times.

• keep costs predictable. This allows you to budget for regularly scheduled maintenance compared to emergency calls, which are often unexpected and cost more.  

In tight times there’s no easy solution, but don’t lose sight of the important management practices that helped your dairy successfully reach this point—ever-improving efficiencies, skilled employees and, most importantly, healthy and productive cows. Keep these factors top-of-mind as you navigate through the tough times to ensure your cows, people and operation are performing at optimal levels both now and in the future.


Keith Engel is sales consultant – hygiene & supplies for GEA Farm Technologies/
WestfaliaSurge. Contact him via e-mail: Keith.engle@geagroup.com.