Tips to milking right

Milking is one thing many farmers take for granted, yet experts say it determines the quality and quantity of milk production, as well as your cow’s health. Godfrey Awinda, from Egerton University, gives advice on how to go about it the right way.
• Psychological preparation: Before leading your cow to the milking parlour, psychologically prepare it. Indeed, spend some time with it. “One mistake many farmers make is to drive their cows directly into the milking shed after feeding. They assume dairy farming equals to ‘proper feed and milk’ routine. Milking is an elaborate procedure, where a cow needs to be physiologically prepared,” says Mr Godfrey Awinda, an agriculturalist at Egerton University.
Take enough time to interact with the cows, caressing and talking with them to make them relax. Stress or fright will affect milk outflow. Also, use this time to study your cows.
• Milking consistency: A milking routine is important.
• Milking environment: A clean, friendly and stress-free environment is a must, while adhering to a milking procedure that will guarantee maximum production and the animal’s health. An unclean environment can cause mastitis. “A milking environment that stresses a cow can expose it to a higher mastitis infection rate. Proper udder stimulation enhances oxytocin release and milk,” Mr Awinda says.
• Holding bay: Before driving the cow into the milking parlour, prepare it for about 30 minutes in an adjacent holding bay. The holding chamber is simply an open fenced compound, big enough to hold the animals, with a door leading to the milking chamber. Its floor should be cemented for easy cleaning but should be rough enough to prevent the cow from sliding.
• Surveillance for diseases and animals on heat: This should be a daily ritual. While with the cows, be keen to spot if any is stressed or sick or if on heat. Check for mastitis, which you can detect by using your hand to physically examine the udder. Or use a strip cup or plate to examine the first drops of milk. “Milk from mastitis-affected cows clots very fast. This happens straightaway sticks on the testing cup or plate,” Mr Awinda explains.
Full Story inside edition 36 Smart Farmer magazine