Quality Milk Production Guide for Spring 2024

April 6, 2024

Key Actions That Will Impact The Quality Of Your Milk Production

Spring is always an exceptionally busy time for dairy farms, as it marks both the calving season and the peak of the milking season. With cows typically beginning to calve in February and finishing up by April, dairy farmers must maintain strict procedures to ensure the quality of milk production remains high. It is, therefore, crucial to focus on your dairy hygiene during this time.

From proper cow health management to stringent hygiene practices during milking and storage, every step counts in delivering premium quality milk to processors. While high-quality milk meets important regulatory standards it also satisfies consumer expectations for freshness, taste, and nutritional value. This commitment to excellence not only benefits your farm but also contributes to the overall integrity of Ireland’s dairy industry.

Milking Plant Hygiene

A Practical Guide for Milk Producers:

As we prepare for the 2024 Spring Milking season, several key points and actions must be taken to maintain high-quality milk production standards. This helpful guide will delve into four key strategies focusing on:

  1. Milking Plant Maintenance
  2. TBC/Thermoduric control
  3. Chlorate Level Reduction
  4. Somatic Cell Count (SCC) Control in Early Lactation

1. Milking Plant Maintenance

Maintaining your milking plant and bulk tank ensures optimal milk quality. Here are the key actions to take:

1.1 Servicing and Calibration

  • Ensure regular servicing of your milking plant and bulk tank.
  • Replace rubberware and chemical dosing tubes as needed.
  • Calibrate units to maintain accuracy.

1.2 Product Selection

1.3 Wash Routine

  • Ensure thorough inspection and cleaning of your milking plant and bulk tank to prevent the contamination of your milk with harmful bacteria, residues, or other contaminants.
  • Follow a robust wash routine to ensure consistency. You can check out Biocel’s Chlorine Free Dairy Wash Cycles here.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitise all areas that come into contact with milk or animals including the milking claw, teat cups and milk hoses to prevent bacterial contamination and maintain milk quality.

2. TBC/Thermoduric Control

Low TBC (Total Bacterial Count) and Thermoduric counts are key indicators of your milk quality and hygiene on your dairy farm.

Total Bacterial Count (TBC): TBC refers to the total number of bacteria present in a sample of milk. A low TBC indicates that the milk has a relatively low level of bacterial contamination. High TBC levels can indicate poor hygiene practices during milking, storage, or processing, and can lead to reduced shelf life, off-flavours, and milk spoilage. Dairy processors typically have strict standards for maximum allowable TBC levels in raw milk to ensure product quality and safety.

Thermoduric Counts: Thermoduric bacteria are a specific group of bacteria that can survive pasteurisation and can reproduce very quickly in dairy processing equipment. Thermoduric counts refer to the number of these heat-resistant bacteria present in a sample of milk. While pasteurisation kills most bacteria in milk, thermoduric bacteria may survive and proliferate if dairy equipment is not properly cleaned and sanitised. Elevated thermoduric counts can lead to reduced product shelf life and quality issues.

To maintain low TBC (Total Bacterial Count) and Thermoduric counts, specific measures should be implemented:

2.1 Use of Approved Detergents

  • Use Moorepark-tested detergents known for their effectiveness in controlling bacterial counts. Detergents like our Multisan CF can be used along with Serpent for consistently low TBCs.

2.2 Pre-Milking Rinsing

  • Thoroughly rinse your milking plant pre-milking at the rate of 14 litres per unit.
  • Use water at 30 – 35°C for improved residue removal and reduce the risk of protein deposits building up.

2.3 Calibration of Automatic Dosing System

  • Calibrate your automatic dosing system for your preferred detergents, descaler, and sanitiser.
  • Ensure accurate dosing of each product to maintain hygiene standards. For effective cleaning, a milking plant typically uses 9 litres of water per unit. A hot wash with a dose rate of .7%v/v per 45l of detergent (Multisan) per unit is required. (You can request a product safety data sheet with full usage instructions here)

2.4 Maintain a hot wash temperature above 50°C

  • Maintaining a hot wash temperature above 50°C is critical during the cleaning cycle of your milking equipment. If the temperature drops below this threshold, milk proteins that have been removed can adhere to your equipment’s surfaces as they cool, leading to the buildup of deposits. These deposits can harbour bacteria, increasing Total Bacterial Count (TBC) and Thermoduric counts in subsequent milkings. Therefore, ensuring the hot wash temperature remains above 50°C is essential for preventing bacterial contamination and maintaining your milk quality.

2.5 Acid Wash

  • Perform an acid wash on your plant 2 to 3 times per week, depending on your water’s hardness.
  • Acid-based detergents effectively remove milk stone and water scales, to prevent bacteria from building up.

2.6 Peracetic Acid Sanitiser

  • Use Peracetic Acid-based sanitiser in the final rinse to further reduce the risk of high TBC/Thermoduric count.
  • Peracetic Acid has non-rinse approval for food contact surfaces. This approval assures that it eliminates harmful bacteria and pathogens from equipment surfaces without leaving residues that could compromise food safety. Consequently, it is a preferred choice for sanitising milking equipment.
  • Always refer to the correct dosing instructions to ensure compliance with hygiene standards while maintaining milk quality and safety. Find out more about how peracetic acid can transform your overall farm hygiene.

Some of Our Top Peracetic Acid Products include:

Peracetic Acid

3. Chlorate Level Reduction in Milk

Chlorates are compounds derived primarily from chlorine-based products, which break down into chlorate ions over time. These ions can be detected in milk samples, indicating potential contamination. High chlorate levels in milk are a huge concern and must be addressed.

Public drinking water undergoes chlorination at low levels for disinfection purposes. However, this practice can pose concerns in areas where chlorate levels are detected in milk, especially when using chlorine-free products. The presence of high chlorate levels in milk is no longer acceptable for dairy processors, as customers now demand very low levels in dairy products including milk powders and butter. Therefore, it’s crucial to address the potential impact of chlorination at every step to ensure compliance with stringent standards set by consumers.

Follow these key points to reduce chlorate levels:

3.1 Product Selection

  • Only use chlorine-free Moorepark-tested detergents to minimise chlorate contamination.

3.2 Teat Dips

  • Avoid teat dips based on chlorine dioxide, as they can contribute to chlorate levels in milk.

3.3 Adequate Rinsing

  • Rinse your milking plant and bulk tank with sufficient volumes of water to remove residual detergents containing chlorates.
  • Ensure thorough drainage of the Bulk Tank and Milking Plant after washing, particularly when using a public water supply treated with chlorine. Residual water left behind can contribute to elevated chlorate levels, emphasising the importance of complete drainage to prevent potential contamination.
Milking parlour cluster components including the milking claw, teat cups and milk hoses

4. Somatic Cell Count Control in Early Lactation

Low bacterial and somatic cell counts serve as crucial markers of milk quality. As these counts rise, the likelihood of milk and cheese contamination with pathogens increases.

High somatic cell counts in milk are an important indicator of udder health and overall cow well-being. Somatic cells, primarily consisting of white blood cells, are essential components of the cow’s immune system. When an infection or inflammation occurs in the udder, such as mastitis, the number of somatic cells in the milk increases as the cow’s body responds to fight off the invading pathogens.

Maintaining low somatic cell counts in your herd, particularly in early lactation, (the first 6 weeks) has proven benefits for the rest of your spring season. It can minimise any milk quality issues, and enhance overall cow productivity and welfare.

Implement the following hygiene control points:

4.1 Cleanliness Maintenance

  • Ensure cubicles and passageways are kept clean to minimise bacterial contamination.

4.2 Use of Lime-Based Products

  • Use lime-based products for cubicle disinfection, known for their effectiveness against mastitis-causing bacteria.

4.3 Teat Dip Application

  • Apply a good quality teat dip pre and post-milking, ensuring adequate coverage of the teat area for enhanced hygiene.

4.4 Cluster Disinfection

  • Ensure clusters are disinfected between cows to prevent the transfer of mastitis-causing bacteria. When a cow with a high somatic cell count (SCC) is milked, these bacteria can spread to the next seven cows milked. Hence, proper disinfection protocols are vital to maintaining udder health and preventing the spread of mastitis within the herd.


Cluster Dipping Disinfectant for Automatic Back Flush Systems.Clus-ster XX is a rapid-action cluster disinfectant to reduce cross-contamination & control the spread of Mastitis within your herd. It is your perfect ally to eliminate potential taint issues that may arise from Hypochlorite use.

4.5 Monitoring and Management

  • Use CMT tests or milk recording to identify cows with high SCC counts and manage them accordingly for optimal herd health.

In short, quality milk production matters. Prioritising milking plant maintenance, TBC/Thermoduric control, chlorate level reduction, and SCC management in early lactation is vital for sustaining high milk quality standards and the overall success of your dairy operations.

By implementing these key strategies and actions, dairy farmers in Ireland, Europe and the UK can ensure premium quality milk supply to processors during the 2024 Spring Milking season.


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