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8 steps to adjust your milking routine for winter

Contributed by GEA Published on 31 December 2020
Cows in the barn

Break out the hand warmers, wool socks and boot dryers – winter is here. Just as you adapt your winter routine to care for your herd, you should also adjust your routines in and around the parlour.

Here are eight steps to implement in your milking routine and parlour procedures to ensure udder health, production and operation efficiency doesn’t skip a beat in cold weather.



1. Evaluate vacuum, pulsation and automatic take-off settings

Teat-end health is more at risk during cold and fluctuating weather. It is important to make sure your equipment is optimized with the proper settings.

“Match vacuum settings and pulsation to your herd’s production and the liners you’re using,” says Keith Engel, hygiene and supplies specialist with GEA. “And make sure automatic take-off settings consistently remove the unit at the proper take-off threshold to avoid milking during periods of low milk flow. Settings out of range for your milking system and herd, combined with cold temperatures, can be a recipe for teat-end damage, compromising udder health.”

2. Protect parlour entrance and exit areas

Ice and frozen manure in parlour entrance and exit areas can cause slippery walkways for cows, impact parlour flow and put cows and people at risk of injury.

“If ice and frozen manure accumulates, help eliminate the obstacle by scraping the return lane every hour in extreme cold,” Engel says. “Spread lime or sand in cow traffic areas to ensure traction and prevent cow injury.”

3. Implement a winter teat dip

Use a post-dip with a higher level of emollients to protect, heal and soften teat skin early. High-emollient post-dip should be used as soon as the temperature is near freezing.


“A good winter teat dip with high emollients will remain fluid when temperatures drop well below zero,” Engel says. “It should also include an effective germicide proven to kill mastitis-causing bacteria and protect teat health.”

4. Take care of your employees

Make sure milkers have proper winter gear for protection and gear to keep milking sanitary like milking sleeves and gloves. A heat source in the parlour area can also help keep employees comfortable during milking. If your employees commute to the farm, encourage them to be mindful of longer drive times.

“Remind your employees to plan for extra travel time,” Engel says. “Work with your team to adjust their schedules to arrive 30 minutes early for their shift. Have backup milkers in case winter conditions prevent an employee from getting to the farm.”

5. Pay attention to your hoses

Having warm water and sanitizer in your drop hoses keeps the parlour and milking units clean. Also, watch closely for hose leaks.

“A leaky hose in warm weather might not be a big deal, but in winter it can quickly become an issue,” Engel says. “Look for leaks in your water hoses and quickly remedy leaks to help prevent ice buildup in and around the parlour.”

6. Keep the supply room warm

Monitor the temperature of your supply and equipment rooms, especially if you’re storing teat dips and blending ingredients for teat-scrubbing systems there.


“Try to keep supply and equipment rooms at 50 degrees Fahrenheit [10°C] or above,” Engel says. “Ensure all doors have proper seals to prevent cold drafts and hygiene products from freezing.”

7. Take caution when warming teat dippers

If you warm up teat dippers in a bucket of hot water, take steps to ensure water doesn’t mix with teat dip by keeping water levels below where the container seals.

“Water in teat dip can reduce dip effectiveness, increasing the chance for mastitis-causing pathogens to spread,” Engel says.

8. Measure water temperature

Ensure the amount of hot water available on your dairy is adequate by monitoring wash cycles. When it’s cold, hot water can drop 10 degrees lower or more than other seasons.

“The water draining temperature from a CIP system should be 120 degrees Fahrenheit [49°C] or higher,” says Engel. “By ensuring there is enough hot water for the system, you can be confident it is helping maintain proper hygiene.”

Keep your milking routine seamless through winter by working with your milk quality and hygiene specialist.  end mark

PHOTO: Use a post-dip with a higher level of emollients to protect, heal and soften teat skin. High-emollient post-dip should be used as soon as the temperature is near freezing. Photo courtesy of GEA.