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Applying technology correctly can mean ‘big bucks’

Harley Wagenseller Published on 30 December 2010

Let’s consider for a moment what can happen when technology is either abused or not applied on your dairy. You can have all the knowledge in the world about certain cow topics and yet not get your point across. How is this possible? Let’s look at some examples to see how good technology can go awry.

‘More practice please’
Like many of you, I have enjoyed attending certain university- sponsored “Dairy Days”. Some great labor [labour]-saving devices have been designed that can mean more dollars for your dairy when applied properly.



I want to relate an incident that happened back in 1988 at a prominent Southeastern dairy program. Several local dairymen were invited to talk about and witness a “groundbreaking” technology for keeping bacteria down on a cow’s udder and teats. The first thing that came to my mind was “must be some new teat dip or something” as we were walking towards the classroom that would serve as our learning center [centre].

Then, we were introduced to “udder flaming technology.” Wow, I thought, this would be great. Like many of you working on commercial dairy farms, clipping cows’ udders is a slow, tedious process that yields nice results, but to do a number of cows in one day is quite a chore. We have known cows with such long hair on their udders that their teats could be lost in there somewhere!

As we walked from the classroom to the dairy barn, I was curious to see how this was going to be worked out. Like any new technology, sometimes all the “bugs” have not been worked out sufficiently. So the class gathered together in this nice Double-8 herringbone parlor [parlour] and in came the cows.

Well, as this technology was in its infancy, apparently the demonstrator had not practiced very often, because very soon this gentleman had taken a seat on the parlor [parlour] floor!

Unfortunately, the “new technology” had not arrived in time for the demonstration, so the instructor literally took a piece of notebook paper, lit it with a match, failed to firmly touch the cow’s leg to let her know he was coming in and as he was putting the almost-consumed- by-fire piece of paper under her udder to singe the hair off – WHAM – the cow kicked the man and down he went! I felt so bad for him and he was clearly embarrassed.


Well, I walked away with mixed feelings after that demonstration, knowing the idea was sound, the principles correct, but the technology that we could not physically see was in doubt.

Eventually, as the procedure was properly executed and singing became a great way to reduce bacteria counts, I now love it. My own personal record is 1,400 cows singed in seven hours. It’s just the smell of that much burnt hair that stays around!

‘Practice what you preach’
The next example occurred several years ago. I was working at a dairy research farm on a prominent university with 500 cows. So many different “characters” worked there, it could fill a small book.

We often were working on research projects by future Ph.D. candidates or feeding trials by many hopeful feed companies. There was, however, one area where there should have been no debate about using proper technology for milk harvest.

For several years now (over 20 years), the proper way to harvest high-quality milk is to predip, strip, wipe, hang or strip, predip, wipe, hang. These have been the accepted norms in a premilking udder prep sequence.

At this facility, however, there was the office of a state extension dairyman who definitely knew proper prepping procedures. He helped many a dairy farm all over the state to correctly prep and milk their cows, from small farms to large. This advice, however, applied to every farm except the one where his office was, 30 feet from the milk parlor [parlour]!


At this farm they had a “sanitizing cycle” on the cow wash system of the holding pen. The cows would drip-dry for at least 15 minutes prior to milking. The cows would enter the parlor [parlour] and immediately each teat received two strips and the machine would go on. No stimulation of the udder for 60 to 90 seconds here. That applied to all other farms, not here!

I can’t completely blame Mr. Extension Dairyman with more than 40 years experience in helping so many farms do it right. Part of the problem was the management of the dairy itself. They did not personally “subscribe” to his philosophy, and he did not insist on doing it the right way. His thinking was, “Can’t we all just get along?”

As an associate of mine on the dairy was fond of saying, “We ought to be setting the example for other dairies.” He was actually right on the money, if you think about it. To ignore proper prepping procedures, timing of letdown, etc., was to completely disregard “Cowology 101.”

As you might expect, these cows had so many teat end lesions, it was a shame. If you immediately put milking machines on udders, there will be about 90 seconds where the machine is milking dry teats, because you have done nothing to stimulate letdown. Certainly, you are going to have sore teat ends!

You have seen pictures of teat-end lesions in this fine publication and why it should be avoided. This problem eventually straightened itself out when the management team was dissolved and the extension dairyman retired.

It took several months for the cows’ teat ends to heal, though. People often say one thing and do another, and you know what we call these people. Another way we can phrase it is, “Practice what you preach.”

Technology can and should be used. It can help us both practically and financially. You need to study its applications for your farm. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars, use it once or twice and then put it back on the shelf? Doing that could take your dairy down the path of the dark side.  PD

Harley Wagenseller
  • Harley Wagenseller
  • Dairy Manager
  • Blakes Landing Farms