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Crystal-clear liners and shells shed light into milking process

Karen Lee Published on 31 July 2014
Crystal-clear liners and shells

Since the invention of the automatic milking machine, dairy producers have been milking in the dark.

Dark liners and stainless steel shells have masked one of the most critical steps of milking – when the milk stream leaves the cow’s teat. A new technology promises to shed light on this dark void with the invention of a crystal-clear teat cup liner and shell.

“Now we can see exactly what’s happening,” exclaims Steve Howes, chief technology officer for Polymer Extrusion Technology (PET) and inventor of the UdderOne product line.

Based in Pompano Beach, Florida, PET specializes in developing and manufacturing specialty resins and polymers. Howes, a polymer chemist, had no prior knowledge of the dairy industry when he began working on this project and talking with industry experts.

On a trip to a Florida dairy farm, he noticed within two minutes what the main problem was in diagnosing problems in a milking system. “You can’t see what’s going on. You can’t see the milk as it is leaving the cow,” he says.

Howes set out to create a liner that is transparent and stays transparent from one milking to the next. “It took two-and-a-half years, and I spent nearly every penny I’ve got,” he notes.

Using revolutionary crystal-clear polymers, he achieved his goal and created a liner that not only remains clear but also holds its integrity.

“Most liners change from the day you install them,” Howes says. “These polymers last longer than others.”

He tested the unit on a dairy farm in Ohio for four weeks and then brought it back to the lab to analyze it. “It milked cows the same on the day we took it off as the day we installed it,” Howes recalls.

In addition, these liners were designed to limit bacteria contamination spread during the milking process.

“I spent days and days on farms and learned the spread of bacteria is a major cause of mastitis,” he says.

Therefore, he integrated the use of nanotechnology in the product line. Nanotechnology has been used in the medical field for the past five years with success, Howes notes. It uses the energy of light to produce safe and powerful oxidizers that can kill bacteria.

These liners are made to withstand at least 7,500 milkings with no change in the stretch or length. The nanotechnology can last at least a full year, so it should be effective throughout the life of the liner on an average dairy farm.

In a milking parlour that works around the clock, Howes says these liners will last for three months.

The liners are available in two shapes – square or round, as well as vented or non-vented.

As the inventor of high-impact glass, it made sense to Howes to create a clear polycarbonate, unbreakable shell that can be sold with the liners. The liners come already loaded into the shell, and the entire unit retails for $15.

While they are more expensive than other products on the market, Howes says they should provide six to seven times more use, save on the labour it takes to change out liners and result in less landfill waste.

Plus, they could help improve the quality of milk, cow health and teat-end health.

The clear unit enables milkers to see feces and flies that enter the liner during the milking process. Instead of just rinsing the unit and hoping for the best, they will be able to see whether or not it is clean.

Any abnormalities in the milk stream can also be seen. “It’s clear. You can see the milk leave the cow and understand why some cows have problems,” states John Amstutz, a dairy farmer from Wadsworth, Ohio.

Amstutz recently installed the liners and shells on some of the milking units he uses to milk his 130-cow herd. Recommended by his farm consultant, the product helped him identify the cause of teat-end problems his cows were experiencing.

With this new liner, he was able to watch as the teats stretched too far down into the liner, where they weren’t being massaged properly. Now that Amstutz has identified the problem, he says he will try to make genetic corrections within his herd to remedy it.

He also plans to install more of the units in his milking parlour, noting he likes that they are made with a medical-grade polymer, which doesn’t bleed into the milk or absorb milk or butterfat like other liners can do.

“With medical-grade polymer liners, it is a very positive move in the right direction to change the way cows are milked,” Amstutz says. “These liners are on the cutting edge of other moves made for profitability.”

Gentler on the cows’ teats, these liners do not contain carbon black or similar fillers that can harm skin with constant rubbing. They are also free from chemical plasticizers such as Phthalates, which are associated with health hazards and can be shed into the milk stream during milking.

This patent-pending technology has met or exceeded the U.S. FDA compliance 21 CFR 177.2600 (E) specification for food contact use and has been tested by an independent company.

Howes reports he just started production in early May and has already shipped units to England, Japan, South America and within the U.S.

In addition, he is in the final development stages of crystal-clear wash cups and hoses, which should be released soon.

With a revolutionary new product for milking equipment, Howes is excited to shed light into an otherwise dark spot on the dairy farm. “I think we’re going to help the industry a lot,” he says.  PD

For more information visit UdderOne or call (954) 975-3233.

PHOTO
The clear teat cup liner and shell enable dairy producers to see the milk stream as it leaves the cow. Photo courtesy of Polymer Extrusion Technology.

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New technology questions

  1. Would you like to see what happens inside the teat cup liner?
  2. Are you interested in saving labour when replacing liners?
  3. Are you concerned about teat health?
  4. Would you like to limit bacteria contamination in your milking system?
  5. Do you prefer a liner made without fillers and Phthalates?
  6. Do you have slow or hard-to-milk cows in your herd?
  7. Are you looking to improve milk quality?
  8. Would you want to reduce liner waste on your farm?

If you answered yes to six or more of these questions, this technology may be one for you to consider.

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