5.0 MILKING THE DAIRY COW

Milking should be conducted in a milking place on your farm which has the following essential features:

a roof (either thatched or sheet iron) to keep out the rain and sun,

a side wall against which the cows are milked,

a head bail at one end of the side wall,

a clean, dry floor, preferably of rough surfaced concrete,

a small, roofed calf pen close to the head bail in sight of a cow being milked.

Where there is no refrigeration, milking can usually be done only once daily in the morning, after which the milk is processed for immediate sale in the market. Where refrigeration is available to keep the milk overnight to be processed and marketed with the milk collected the following morning, an evening milking can also be done.

The actual activities associated with milking are the same at both times of the day. However regardless of whether the cows are milked once or twice, the milking times each day must be the same.

5.1 Milk Let-down

Milk can only be efficiently taken from a cow when she is relaxed and ready to be milked. This is known as 'milk let-down". Unless this state has been achieved, the milk will be difficult to extract and not all of the milk she has produced will be available.

Nervous cows which are difficult to get into the bail or which won't settle down for easy milking will not be suitable as milking cows. These cows should be sold and replaced with cows which have a quiet and relaxed temperament.

Milk let-down can be achieved by:

establishing a milking routine which does not change from day to day,

not allowing strangers to come to the milking bail during milking,

ensuring that the cow is not frightened of the bail or the milking process. (She should not be beaten or roughly handled during milking),

making sure there are no barking dogs or shouting during milking time,

letting the cow see her calf during milking,

feeding some or all of the concentrate ration while milking is going on. You could feed her one or two kg. of copra cake each day, or give her green Leticaena or improved pasture to eat while she is bailed-up,

washing the udder vigorously and waiting for a couple of minutes before beginning to milk,

talking quietly before and during milking and being gentle and firm in handling the cow at all times.

5.2 Udder preparation, Washing and Milking

When the cow is in the head-bail and is eating her feed ration, you can begin milking. Use a clean bucket which has been washed and sterilised with boiling water.

Follow this sequence:

1. Lock the cow into the head bail,

2. Give the green feed or concentrate for her to eat,

3. Make sure she can see the calf,

4. Wash your hands with soap and water,

5. Wash the udder and each teat vigorously with soap and water and dry them with a clean cloth,

6. Direct the first two squirts of milk outside the milking bucket. This milk has the most bacteria in it and should be discarded. Direct the squirts onto a flat surface so that any clots which are present and which indicate mastitis can be seen,

7. Milk the cow by ringing the base of the teat with the thumb and forefinger and using the other three fingers of the same hand to force the milk down and out of the teat. Leave enough milk in the udder for the calf and release the calf for feeding when the milking has been completed. After milking or suckling, the teats should be dipped in a teat dip if available.

The act of vigorous udder washing stimulates milk letdown. But cleanliness in washing is very important. If the udder and teats are clean but you can not make sure that the water and cloth are also clean, it may be better that you don't wash the udder at all.

5.3 Boiling and Storing the Milk

The milk should be boiled for two reasons.

1. There are bacteria in the milk which can cause the milk to spoil too quickly if they are not destroyed. Boiling quickly kills these bacteria and allows the milk to be held for longer periods without it becoming spoiled.

2. If the cow has diseases such as BRUCELLOSIS or TUBERCULOSIS, the milk can transmit these diseases to humans unless they are destroyed by boiling. Cows also have mastitis sometimes. This is an infection of the udder caused by bacteria which also can make people sick if they drink unboiled milk.

The milk should be brought to the boil on a fire which is not too hot so that it does not bum the milk and it Should be cooled as quickly as possible after reaching the boil. After it is poured into the containers for selling (clean coke or beer bottles are suitable) these should be stoppered and kept refrigerated until sold. The milk containers should be clean and sterilised with boiling water before they are filled, using a disinfectant similar for use in sterilising baby bottles.