5 common employee mistakes in a milking parlor
It’s common knowledge that any protocol deviations at the farm can lead to cows’ diseases, worsening the milk quality and milk loss. Cattle Care helps the dairies be proactive and spots these deviations capturing them as short video clips. The software also tracks progress, reports errors and specific incidents so that the manager can address them effectively and incentivize preferred behaviors. Here are the statistics about the five most common employee mistakes that Cattle Care identifies in a milking parlor. 1. Towel accidents Improper usage of towels for cows can end up in growing mastitis cases at a dairy. The system spots various protocol deviations such as using one towel for two cows without flipping in between or for several cows in a row; using dirty towels (for example, from the floor) before wiping the cow. 2. Manual detaches of machines too soon Even if a parlor has an automatic vacuum shutoff based on milk flow, it can be common for workers to manually detach machines too soon in order to get the work done earlier. As a result, a dairy can observe significant milk loss that could be easily prevented. 3. Missed postdip The use of a post milking disinfection has been validated as a standard good milking practice and an essential part of mastitis management. Incorrect usage of post dipping sprays or even missing the routine can lead to massive mastitis spread among cows. 4. Cow-human interactions Animal wellbeing is undoubtedly of the highest priority for every dairyman. It’s important to spot and eliminate any cases of unnecessary and potentially harmful cow-human interactions. Cattle Care developed a 5-point scoring system that categorizes human-cow interactions that might be seen in a parlor. In addition to that, dairymen get an immediate alert if an unnecessary interaction scored with a 4 or a 5 happened at the dairy. 5. Phone and resting The mistake includes miscellaneous events when milkers are not doing their job and that can potentially slow down the work in a milking parlor. For instance, milkers can use their phone for a long time, smoke, eat or just hang around in a milking parlor. Please reach out if you’re interested to learn more about issues happening in your milking parlor:
Automated parlor monitoring helps California dairy lower its somatic cell count
After only one-month of using automated video analytics for his milking parlor, California dairyman Cornell Kasbergen knew the new monitoring technology he was using would pay dividends. “I’ve seen better adherence to our protocols since we started using the Cattle Care system. I believe that every dairy farm can benefit by using this system. If a dairy thinks their milkers are doing a good job all the time, this will prove them wrong.” Kasbergen’s dairy in Tulare, California, has been using new technology from Cattle Care to surveil milking shifts and highlight when actions deviate from the dairy’s prescribed protocols. How it works San Francisco-based video monitoring company Cattle Care taps into a dairy’s existing security camera, captures video from a milking shift and uploads it for processing on the company’s secure servers. The company’s video analytics algorithms can spot deviations from what a producer would expect to see in a milking parlor operating at 100 percent efficiency. For example, the company’s service can spot when a milker manually removes a milking unit too soon, doesn’t post-dip a cow or is on their phone during a milking shift. These deviations are captured as short video clips and made available for a producer to view and share in their own online dashboard. How it’s used Kasbergen says the clips are helpful for training and reminding employees about protocols. On his dairies, when actions get flagged and appear in one of the clips, the employees become “movie stars.” He uses the clips during monthly trainings to teach employees and improve performance. “The employees don’t like to be movie stars,” he jokes. Before trying the system, Kasbergen was dubious if it would be worth using. He assumed that his employees followed protocols as they had been instructed. The program quickly showed otherwise. “It’s a great teaching and training tool, milkers stay in bounds with procedures now. If they get out of bounds, Cattle Care finds them. If you don’t show them every once in a while, that you’re watching, they will drift.” Using machine vision, Cattle Care can spot when a milker manually removes a milking unit too soon, doesn’t post-dip a cow or is on their phone during a milking shift. The technology can identify and report 20+ common issues dairy owners and managers would want to know about if occurring in their own parallel or rotary milking parlor. What it returns on investment Since starting with Cattle Care, the system has helped reduce the somatic cell count at the two farms where the system has been installed. “When you’re chasing somatic cell issues, if the milkers aren’t doing their job, it makes the job of trying to figure out where issues are coming from that much harder,” Kasbergen says. In addition to monitoring for protocol deviation, Cattle Care can also monitor for aggressive behavior towards cows, giving dairies some peace of mind that if an animal care issue were going on in the parlor the system would find it. In total, it can identify 20 potential issues in a parallel parlor like Kasbergen’s. Plus, if cameras are available in the holding pen or bulk tank room, monitoring activities are also available for those areas. The system doesn’t just have to look for errors either. A dairy can have it tally the number of positive events it spots during a shift – such as good wiping, stripping, pre-dipping, post-dipping and cow handling. The service is offered for a monthly subscription fee. Often, a dairy with existing parlor security cameras has no additional set up or equipment installation costs. “It covers a lot of bases,” Kasbergen says. Each time he questions if he really needs it, he sees something in one of the clips the system generates that makes him glad the system caught the issue and alerted him to it. “I believe that it’s a valuable tool that will return many times the subscription cost,” Kasbergen says. Cattle Care is currently monitoring dairies and parlors milking more than 75,000 cows in the U.S. For a free demo of what Cattle Care can find on a single day in your parlor video, contact (559) 380-2550 or visit https://www.cattle-care.com/milking-parlor. Please reach out if you're interested to learn more:
Milking Procedures and Routine
Adequate oxytocin letdown improves overall parlor performance and is directly related to the procedures and routines utilized in a given parlor. The procedures are those steps that are required to milk one cow. An example would be apply predip, strip teats, dry teats, and finally attach and adjust units. The routine is how groups of cows are milked in the parlor. There are two main types of oxytocin letdown. Non-conditioned letdown is stimulated by manipulating teats during the udder preparation process. When stimulated by direct contact, nerves in the teats will send a message to the brain which then releases oxytocin from the pituitary gland into the bloodstream. Based on the known physiology of oxytocin letdown, non-conditioned stimulation requires 10 to 12 seconds of teat contact time, followed by full oxytocin expression in the mammary gland at approximately 90 seconds after teats are first touched. The conditioned effect of milk letdown is influenced by what the cow sees, hears, and experiences as she is brought to the parlor, as she enters the parlor and as she standing in the parlor. The more consistent the handling and movement of the cows into the parlor, the better the overall conditioned milk letdown effect. It’s important to remember that if a cow experiences anxiety as she’s moved to the parlor or while she’s in the parlor, it will negatively impact oxytocin letdown. Therefore handling cows in a calm manner and being very consistent in what she experiences during the milking process is extremely important to maximize parlor performance. There are several routines that are commonly used on dairies. These are dependent on the size of the parlor, the number of milk harvest technicians and the goals of management. Group routine - one milk harvest technicians performs all the steps on each cow in a defined group size Sequential routine - technicians follow one another in a predetermined manner each performing one or more steps of the udder preparation process Territorial routine - this can be a combination of a group or sequential routine where one person is responsible for staying in one area of the parlor. For maximum consistency, the easiest routine to teach in a parlor is a group routine. By having one technician responsible for each group, timing generally is significantly improved over sequential milking. In sequential milking the most difficult part for technicians to understand is to keep the distance between technicians consistent, to allow maximal oxytocin letdown. Some dairies operate with a group routine in combination with the territory routine. Each technician may milk two or more groups of cows in one section of the parlor and never move to another section of the parlor. Some dairies find this method works very well because they can print a parlor summary report for certain sections of the parlor if they have milk meters with data uploaded to herd a management program such as Dairy Comp 305. Consistency of all aspects of preparation and routine are extremely important to maximizing parlor performance. Inconsistent application of procedures or the routine will result in longer individual cow milking times and if repeated over time, will result in less milk production per cow. When producing standard operating procedures for parlors it’s extremely important to very clearly state all aspects of the requirements for milking technicians. Define each step as clearly as possible. For instance, how is the teat predip going to be applied? Dip cups, spraying or foam? Which teats do the technicians start with in the parlor? What you technicians do to more completely clean extremely dirty teats? If stripping is part of the routine, how many streams of milk from each teat? What teats do they start stripping? How are teats dried? In what order are they dried? Drying teats is the most important aspect of udder preparation if using conventional udder preparation procedures. Teats should be dried with one circular, aggressive motion on each teat, beginning with the teats furthest away from the technician, then proceeding to teats that are closest to the technician. As soon the last teat has been dried with a circular motion, the technician should flip the towel and go back to each teat and make an aggressive pinching action across each teat end in the same order. The goal is to have the teats clean, dry, and stimulated when the technician comes back to attach units. Attaching units is generally the last step, however it is extremely important to properly adjust the unit so all four teat cups assemblies are hanging straight down on each teat. Proper unit alignment will dramatically reduce liner slips, unit falloffs and reattachments that are required of the milk harvest technicians. Many dairies are now utilizing mechanical brushes for cleaning and stimulating teats prior to unit attachment. It’s very important to manually flush the mechanical brush after each group of cows to minimize contamination of the brushes. In addition brushes must be changed on a regular basis to ensure that they are effectively cleaning teats. Properly trimming switches on cows will minimize issues with long hair being wrapped around the brushes and rendering them ineffective. Whatever routines and procedures are used in the parlor, the more consistent these are cow to cow during every milking and from milking technician to milking technician at every milking the better the overall parlor performance will be for the diary. Consistency is the key factor! Modern video analytics systems track protocol deviations in milking parlor automatically. Don't lose any situation, know about everything in time with Cattle Care computer vision software.
Parlor Performance Basics
Several factors, including the number of milk harvest technicians and desired milk quality interact to determine parlor efficiency. One of the most important efficiency factors is maximizing total pounds of milk produced. The best method to evaluate this is to calculate milk production as a per stall per hour of operation number. This number can be calculated in any parlor or stall barn system whether or not meters or milk monitoring devices are installed. The information needed is the time in hours and tenths of an hour, the total amount of milk produced during the milking and the number of units. The calculation is made by dividing the total milk produced by the number of milking units and the resulting milk weight is then divided by the total time. On many dairies, total cows milked per day or per hour is commonly used as a proxy for pounds of milk output but too often is used as the only measure. When cows are not prepped properly, throughput can increase even though less milk is produced! This is not the desired goal for any herd. In simplistic terms, increasing milk per stall per hour can be achieved in three ways: Increasing production per cow Increasing the average milk flow while units are attached Decreasing the amount of time units are attached to cows. Production per cow may be influenced more by other factors such as nutrition and cow comfort. Cows milked calmly after adequate stimulation give more milk and will milk out quicker and more completely. To achieve high maximum milk weights harvested in the parlor or barn on a daily basis requires excellent pre milking udder preparation procedures that ensure high quality milk and excellent mastitis control. Consistency of the udder preparation procedures and routine are the most important factors for maximizing both parlor throughput and milk production. Management's goal should be to bring cows to the milking parlor as clean as possible at every milking and in as calm a manner as possible. Cows handled in a calm manner move slower with less manure splash on the back of their front legs, lower body and most importantly on the teats and udder floor than do cows that are pushed aggressively to the parlor. Calm cows will more willingly enter the parlor and will have better primary oxytocin letdown during udder preparation. A primary goal for any dairy is to have good stockmanship and cow handling. Animals thrive when handled in a quiet, calm manner in an environment where they feel safe. Maximum flow rates and fast, complete milking are achieved when cows are consistently prepped and units are attached to plump, full teats. Adequate oxytocin requires at least 10 to 12 seconds of teat contact time during stripping, washing or drying teats. Units should be attached as close as possible to 90 seconds after the teats are first touched during the preparation procedure. On many farms, when milk harvest technicians “slow down” and follow the SOP (standard operating procedure) then the overall milking will speed up and the technician’s job becomes easier because there are fewer liner squawks and fall off requiring milkers to go back to adjust or re-hang units. Consistency in udder preparation is a critical factor on many dairies. Variation between milkings and milkers are significant issues. SOP’s are required and all milk harvest technicians must appreciate that how they perform the procedures and the routines during milking will impact both the overall udder health and profitability of the farm. Technicians have control over how clean teats are when units are attached. The level of mastitis is directly related to the number of bacteria present on teats and teat ends when the units are attached. Guidelines for milk per stall per hour are as follows: 2X Parlor herds > 170 pounds/stall/hr (68 kg) 3X Parlor herds > 150 pounds /stall/hr (50 kg) Remember the most important number is where the herd is now and what happens when changes are made to the milkings procedures, milking routine or milking equipment settings. The higher the better! Modern video analytics systems track parlor efficiency automatically. Don't lose any situation, know about everything in time with Cattle Care computer vision software.
Parlor Performance II
Goals for parlor efficiency can be described as follows. Have cows enter the parlor and occupy the stalls calmly, yet quickly. For side by side parlors the goal is approximately 1 second per stall to move from the entrance of the parlor to the front stall. Have a milk harvest technician begin an excellent udder preparation routine as soon as possible after the first cow turns into the front stall. By following this recommendation, cows will have adequate stimulation of the udder for excellent oxytocin letdown and the teats will be clean, dry and stimulated when the units are attached. Have the unit be applied to the cow as close as possible to 90 seconds after the start of udder preparation. Units should be attached to the cow with minimal or no air leakage, which minimizes excitement to the cow. Immediately after attachment, units should be properly adjusted. The cow should milk out quickly and completely. The unit removed immediately upon cessation of milk flow. Have the cow exit calmly within a minute of unit removal. Have the next cow occupy the same stall calmly yet quickly to begin the process again. Another key factor in parlor efficiency is to minimize the time between unit removal from one cow to attachment of the same unit to the next cow. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including: Delays in cow entrance into the parlor from the holding area Delays entering the parlor and occupying the parlor stall Delays between the time when the cow occupies the parlor stall and unit attachment Delays when exiting the parlor Delays due to an empty holding pen between groups of cows Delays from attachment of the first unit on a side to the last unit on the same side Delays due to long unit on time for one cow holding up the rest of the side Delays due to equipment factors decreasing milk flow rate (i.e. low vacuum) Delays due to inadequate stimulation decreasing milk flow rate during udder preparation process One common recommendation made to producers is to make the take off settings “less aggressive.” Less aggressive means to remove units sooner. Aggressive milking is when liners are opening and closing on teats with very low milk flow. While less aggressive takeoff settings are always in the best interest of the cows and their teat ends, changing settings will only result in improved parlor performance if when milkers finish attaching on one side the other side of the parlor still has units milking. Parlor performance can only be evaluated by being in the parlor during milking to review the procedures used to prep one cow and the routine employed to milk groups of cows. Although it is important to review records on automated facilities, this is never the best method to evaluate parlor performance. Careful observations of cow behavior not only as they enter the parlor, but also as they are touched and handled during udder preparation, as units are attached and throughout milking are necessary to fully understand parlor issues. Always walk the entire dairy facility to allow observations to be made of the manure management, cow comfort, and cow handling procedures. Failure to evaluate the entire dairy will often lead to faulty recommendations being made to the producer regarding parlor performance. Modern video analytics systems track parlor efficiency automatically. Don't lose any situation, know about everything in time with Cattle Care computer vision software.
Parlor efficiency and productivity up on California dairy thanks to Cattle Care technology
Overseeing 45 total employees and milking 5,000 cows three times a day, farmer EJ de Jong of Hanford, Calif., knows first-hand the importance of an efficient parlor. As a forward-thinking dairyman, his curiosity sparked when first learning about Cattle Care's innovative video analytics for parlor management. Using a series of installed cameras, (which can simply be any pre-existing cameras on the farm) Cattle Care is able to visualize everything happening in a parlor – equipment, milkers and cattle. It then generates an automated report about all established protocol deviations that occurred during a particular shift. Its software also tracks progress, reports errors and specific incidents so that the manager can address them effectively and incentivize preferred behaviors. "It has been very eye-opening and very helpful to actually know what's going on in the barn" de Jong shares. A new way or parlor management Overall, de Jong says that working with Cattle Care helped them lower their somatic cell counts. Additionally, their milking shift time frames are much more consistent than they ever were before. One of the most significant changes the software helped de Jong make was implementing an incentive system that offers bonuses to employees according to shift once meeting a set minimum criterion. "For better criteria, then they'll get a little better of a bonus," de Jong explained. "When they hit our optimal goal, then the bonus is pretty hefty." The system, he adds, has helped express the need for better employee communication. Another thing de Jong did was create a new position for a milker manager. This person was promoted and designated to observe the system’s analytics and talk to employees on shifts consistently flagged for specific errors. "One thing that they improved right away was the percentage of cows that were not getting post dipped," says de Jong. When starting with Cattle Care, he saw that only about 90% of the cows were getting properly post dipped after milking. After identifying the problem and addressing it with employees, he said that number almost immediately shot up to virtually 100%. Another thing they found to improve was manually detaching cows too soon. While their parlor has an automatic vacuum shutoff based on milk flow, it used not to be uncommon for impatient human nature to lead workers to manually detach milkers too early. "We've been able to reduce that quite a bit," said de Jong. "It'll probably never be 100% because you can't have 40 cows waiting for one; you're always going to have a percentage (of cows) that are really slow milkers. Those ones we have to detach, but we're getting comfortable levels with that number." On the flipside, Cattle Care is also helping them catch times when machines come off too early. In some cases, employees might assume the cow is finished milking without checking her udder for assurance. "In those cases, we're measuring those as well," says de Jong. "Protocol is you got to catch it within 45 seconds… there's a percentage that they don't catch. (Now) we're flagging that and working on it." These positive changes were made possible under the analysis of Cattle Care with behind-the-scenes decision-making by de Jong and his team. Doing that required a bit of a learning curve. Working with the system Learning about issues in the parlor with statistical analysis and management is notably different from arbitrarily reviewing a video or making "guesstimates" based on time. "It makes you look at things from a completely different perspective," says de Jong. "It's a totally new way of looking at (parlor management)." Something that helped him in the early stages was the Cattle Care team. Every two weeks, they would hold Zoom meetings with de Jong. Together they would discuss trends they were seeing and brainstorm ideas that would have positive impacts. They also evaluated what progress their changes were making. "There are certain things you got to prioritize; you got to pick your battles," he says. "It's great technology and catches a lot. But at the same time, we can't be running this place like the Gestapo." He notes that, especially with the difficulties in finding reliable labor, handling employee issues is critical. Employee improvement Something that has helped de Jong immensely at tackling problems is the alerting Cattle Care does to issues in the barn. Otherwise, he says it would take hours manually going through video footage to identify problematic behaviors, then even more time to evaluate them and then address them directly to employees across three different shifts. The advanced Cattle Care algorithms not only accounts for what the issues are; they also take the data and visualize it. This way, EJ and his team can physically see the procedural drifts and differentiation in a working progress report of charts and graphs. The report can be customized to differentiate between shifts and procedures. Each time data is collected, it can be compared against past performances to see improvement or regression. With a concrete way to measure and reward proper milking parlor protocols, the difference in improvement is paramount. De Jong believes this is much more powerful compared to just verbally making corrections. "With the implementation of the bonus program (employees) have total control whether or not their shift gets it because they know what metrics," he says. "Looking at the first series that we did, we saw a pretty dramatic increase once we offered the incentive." Continual success Overall, de Jong says he is impressed with the aid of Cattle Care and the quality in working with their team and continual development. "(Cattle Care's) responsiveness to ideas and the speed that they come back with solutions in the software or the interface has been really impressive," he says. "I think they're just going to be constantly improving and constantly developing. It's a really good product now and it's going to get better." Please reach out if you're interested to learn more: