Moving from cow to cow in a conventional milking setup, the milker changes out the rags or towels and keeps his or her hands clean. A robot has a tougher time cleaning off dirt left behind from the last cow and requires a different routine to stay clean and harvest high-quality milk.
Milk quality in automatic milking systems depends upon having good basic Standardized Operating Procedures (SOPs). Following good, basic SOPs is the foundation of good milk quality, regardless of the type of milking system you have. In the case of a conventional milking barn, these daily routines are often part of an everyday ritual. In automatic milking, these SOPs have to be altered and relearned, but they too should be done as an everyday routine. DeLaval recommends five simple routines for maintaining excellent milk quality in a robotic milking system.
Camera: The camera lens should be cleaned three times per day. One of these times should be with a high-quality acid such as Ridstone®. This helps to ensure that the lasers can see the teat, allowing the arm to properly find the teat, clean it, and attach.
Grippers: Spray water between the grippers once per day to clean out grime and sand. You can use Sheen-Ezey™ or Della-Sheen at label directions and rinse afterwards with potable (drinkable) water. This helps to keep wear on these parts to a minimum.
Stall: Be sure to clean the stall floor and manure plate daily. Cleaning the stall floor removes excess manure and lowers the potential for cup contamination should a cow kick off a cup. Cleaning and checking the function of the manure plate daily is key to the performance and ability of the Voluntary milking system VMS™ to find teat placement on the cow.
Magazine: Clean the tubes (hoses), liner mouth piece, shell and belt every day. This is good, basic hygiene much like the cleaning of the milk cluster in a conventional milking barn. Sometimes VMS owners mistake the use of the built-in spray nozzles (hose and shell rinse function) as a substitute for this step. These nozzles are designed to be used between every cow, but over time they don’t remove 100 percent of the residual from the manure and debris on the liners, shells and tubes. It’s a good practice to clean these daily with a brush and Sheen-Ezey, and rinse with potable water. When residue builds up in the crevasses of the hoses, it gums up the rollers that hold the tubes in the magazine, making the tubes tighter when the arm is prepping or attaching liners to the teat. This is another reason a robot might miss a teat.
VMS milk station: In general, the outside of the milk station should be keep in good hygiene. Sheen-Ezey and a soft bristle brush will keep the outside of the VMS clean and prevent build-ups of hard water stains, manure and other dirt. Bacteria can easily find a home in these types of debris. After cleaning with Sheen-Ezey, it is recommended to rinse the outside of the milk station with potable water. Keeping the milk station clean helps reduce stall time and keeps the VMS station functioning at the top of its game.
General maintenance is another key to keeping the station’s performance tip-top. DeLaval maintenance kits are developed to help achieve this top performance. The milk station runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The DeLaval-recommended maintenance program is designed to replace routine, worn out parts before they become problematic. Milk quality issues are often traced back to a part that should have been changed out on routine maintenance. Keeping up to date on maintenance allows you to find and replace the worn out parts before they become problematic. Milk Quality in automatic milking systems is largely about relearning your routines and following them on a daily basis.