On–Farm Milker Training Helps Dairies Improve Milk Quality

Chris Mondak, dairy field specialist

The hot, humid summers in the Upper Midwest frequently cause spikes in dairy herds’ SCC (somatic cell count), resulting in a loss of income to dairy owners due ineligibility for milk quality premiums, and in some cases, penalties for high SCC. This was an especially undesirable situation for dairy owners in the summer of 2003 when incomes were already down due to low milk prices. A fieldman from a local milk cooperative requested help from ISU Extension to conduct milker training as a way to help bring SCC numbers down.

The ISU Extension worker collaborated with the milk plant field rep and herd veterinarians to investigate the milk quality issues on the farms of interest, and to plan on-farm milker training sessions. The planning included discussions with dairy owners, herdsmen, and veterinarians about the issues involved, observations of current milking procedures and milking area, observations of overall cow housing, and analysis of herd records on udder health and SCC trends.
Using information gathered in the investigations, customized on-farm milker training sessions were conducted on 5 large farms in NW Iowa. The sessions were conducted in 2 parts: The first segment involved a “classroom” session in the employee breakroom where workers learned about the economic significance of the SCC problem, the importance of the milkers’ role on udder health, principles of oxytocin and milk letdown, and correct milking procedures needed to achieve good let-down and good milk quality. The communication barrier was erased somewhat through be-lingual flip charts for the “lecture” component of the session, videos in Spanish that explained oxytocin and correct cow prep procedures, and demonstrations and skits involving the workers and owners.
The second segment of the training session was conducted in the milking parlor where each milker was coached on cow prep and teat end cleanliness, and milker crews were coached on how to achieve the right pace and consistent procedure.

The training reached 64 dairy employees, impacted the udder health of approximately 3,670 cows, and improved milk quality on all 5 farms. On average, the farms improved their herd SCC score by 150,000, and saw improved income from milk quality bonuses in the range of $.25 - $.70 per hundred pounds milk sold per day, which translates to a monthly income improvement in the range of $5,250 - $14,700 for a 1,000 cow dairy.


Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu