Milker Training Workshops Assist Dairy Producers to Achieve Goals

January - March 2003

Chris Mondak , dairy, dairy/beef and forage field specialist

In northwest Iowa , as dairies expand in size and owners hire on more family and non-family workers, the goal of achieving consistently correct milking procedures is becoming harder to attain. Several producers struggling with the challenge of training employees or with the challenge of trying to correct herd somatic cell counts (SCC) and mastitis problems, have expressed interest in milker training courses that would instruct dairy employees about correct modern milking procedures and the scientific principles or reasons for those specific procedures.

Iowa State University Extension field staff, dairy field specialists from the Ames campus, and a dairy science professor at Dordt College , a 4-yr liberal arts college in Sioux County , joined resources to plan and present a milker training workshop. The workshop included both classroom sessions for instruction about the scientific principles underlying good milking procedures, and hands-on practicum sessions in the milking parlor adjacent to the classroom at the Dordt College Dairy.

The workshop agenda included these topics: the physiology of milk-let down, the milker's role in achieving good milk let-down and quality milk, cow psychology and proper cow handling at milking time, details on current best practices in cow preparation and milking procedures, and techniques to achieve quality milk through clean cows and good hygiene.

The workshop was scheduled at mid-day, between the typical busy morning and evening chore times to make it more possible for dairy owners and employees to attend the workshop together—when establishing new procedures at a dairy operation, it is smart to have the owner and employees learning the same new techniques at the same time.

Thirty dairy owners or employees took advantage of the two milker training workshops held in late summer 2002. The attendees represented eight farms; in these cases both owner and employees attended together. All learned the fundamentals in a classroom setting that utilized video, demonstrations, powerpoint slides and skits. Following the classroom instruction, the group was split, with one half going to the adjacent milking parlor to apply and practice the new techniques, and the other half going to the adjacent freestall barn to apply cow psychology to the tasks of properly moving cows quietly and safely. This group also practiced the technique of udder singeing to remove the excess udder hair that gets in the way of good cow cleanliness and quality milk. The owner-employees teams that attended took advantage of the workshop time to discuss with the instructors the particular challenges encountered at their farm and the possible ways to adjust and apply correct modern milking techniques to their unique situations.

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