Frequency of Milking

While there is plenty of evidence to prove that cows milked more frequently than twice-daily produce higher yields and have a generally lower incidence of mastitis, for many producers the extra work requirement and increased costs associated with labour, electricity and machinery use will make the three-times-per-day system much less desirable.

Part of the reason why cows milked on a three-times-per-day system have a generally lower incidence of mastitis is likely due to the 'keratin flush', where the act of milking removes a layer of keratin inside the teat cistern and canal and any bacteria that are adhering to it, making them less susceptible to mastitis, Other factors such as the reduced pressure in the udder from more frequent milking, which results in less leakage from - and reduced shortening of - the teat canal also contribute to improvements.

Against these advantages, when milking more often than twice-daily there is however the obvious increased potential of:

  • Damage from the increased washing and drying of teats, which strips them of what little protective moisture they have.
  • The extra exposure to teat-end damage from over-milking, poorly-maintained milking equipment and poor milking techniques.
  • A greater risk of exposure to reverse milk flow and impact forces from liner slippage or poor cluster attachment, which can lead to teat canal infection from environmental mastitis pathogens.
  • A greater risk of exposure to contagious mastitis pathogens from infected milking equipment or unhygienic milking practices.

While the decision to switch to a greater frequency of milking will be largely on grounds of cost and resource availability for many, a consistent milking routine is paramount on all dairy farms, as this is likely to limit milk leakage - and the resultant risk of cross-contamination - while the cows are lying down or waiting to be milked.

There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that cows that are milked on a once-daily routine have a higher Somatic Cell Count than cows that are dried-off abruptly.