I thought this would be a great time to write about milking practices since most of us are milking our goats or will be milking our goats soon.
Since dealing with a case of mastitis last year, I realized that even though I thought I was doing things correctly, I felt that my milk room practices may need to be scrutinized and reviewed.
I began researching mastitis and milk room protocols for prevention. I turned to studies and papers written and published on the subject by the University Extension Services for guidance. I thought I'd share some of the things I found interesting with you here.
Once I learned what should be done while milking, I knew where I was lacking in my protocols. I made a list of things I needed to address - A big issue was I was not always wearing gloves when handling the does. Another big issue was I did not take time to dry the inflations properly after use between milking the does. I would dip them into the sanitizer bucket and go on with the next doe without thoroughly drying the inflation. I learned that water aids in bacteria growth and the udder and teats always need to be completely dry before milking.
One of the studies I read addressed the proper care of any cloth towels used in the milk room. I use white terry cloth wash clothes to pre-clean the does udders. I always use a new towel for each doe and now I make certain that I am using another towel to completely dry the udder prior to use of the pre-dip treatment. All the wash clothes I use are soaked in bleach prior to washing in hot water and are completely dried in the drier before using again to ensure no bacteria is present on the wash clothes which is the recommended protocol.
Another area of concern was that I was not paying close attention to the milking process while the does were on the stand and I was not using the strip cup consistently. I was stripping the teat into the udder wipe instead of the strip cup. I was also not consistent with periodic testing with the CMT test. I was quickly becoming aware of how much I needed to change in the way I prepped my does, milked the does and how I finished milking the does. I definitely needed to make improvements!
I began to develop a Best Milking Practices Checklist that I could follow to develop a routine that was healthier approach for our goats and would minimize the risk of mastitis in our herd. Since mastitis is such a common and costly condition in dairy herds, I knew needed to learn and incorporate better milk management practices to reduce the likelihood of mastitis.
I learned a lot of little things that matter like both pre-dipping the teats and post-dipping the teats require the entire teat be dipped 3/4" up to reduce the risk of bacteria infecting the teat until the teat's sphincter closes. The dip also provides a barrier against the weather for the teats. (I've since changed to the aerosol, Fight Bac, for the final "dip" - the spray is very cold and closes the teat quickly.)
In order to evaluate if each teat is being properly dipped or sprayed, the "paper towel test" can be used. If the dip or spray is being properly applied, all of the paper towel coming into contact with at least the lower 1/3rd part the teat should be wet. Dry spots will indicate a lapse in coverage which will provide an opportunity for infection to occur.
Another one of the activities I added to my Milk Practices Checklist was to inspect the end of our goat's teats to see what condition they are in. The goal is to have no ring around the teat as you can see in the photograph above and the scorecard below. I had not seen this before!
I was unaware that teats could be damaged by improper milking, improper placement of an inflation or from the improper removal of an inflation from the teat. When finishing milking, the "pressure" should naturally release and never be forced - turn the machine off and let the pressure naturally release from the teat. It is also extremely important not to over-milk a doe. Milking with a machine should never go beyond 3 or 4 minutes. (The maximum for cows milking, the time should never go beyond 5 minutes.)
An easy way to measure the correct milking time to use is by using something referred to as the "strip-yield test". This test measures the volume of milk left in each side of the udder after removal of the milking unit. This simple test helps to evaluate the milking procedure, how long the milk unit is being detached from the udder and how the milking unit is handled.
To perform the Strip-Yield-Test, you'll need a 1 cup measuring cup and as soon as the milking inflation comes off, begin stripping the goats teats into the measuring cup until the goat is dry. If you milk twice per day, you'll want to have at least 1 ounce per teat after each milking or 2 ounces per milking in the cup. After the second milking, you'll want to have 4 ounces of milk in the measuring cup. (If you milk three times per day, there should be more milk left in the udder after each milking.)
Another important fact I learned was there is a 60 to 90 second time frame we have to begin milking once the udder is touched. Once the udder is touched, a hormone called Oxytocin is released and must travel through the blood stream to the udder where it will cause the muscle cells that surround the milk ducts to contract which starts milk let down. This takes about 60-90 seconds from first touch until let down occurs – This period is called the “lag time”.
In order to meet the 60 second time frame, I found that I have to have everything set up and ready to go before I ever have the doe on the milk stand. I make certain everything is set up and ready to go as soon as the doe is on the stand. I have found that since I began following my checklist, milking time is much more streamlined and therefore a lot less harried for me and I am not running around looking for something I forgot. (See Below)
Everything has become a habit for me now when it comes to milking time and I've found that is a good thing for both the does and me!