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ADF Milking system in the news and at exhibitions

From Ontario Dairy Farmer –July/August 2006

Automatic Dip and Rinse

“IT’S ABOUT bloody well time!” says British dairy farmer William Goodwin. An automatic teat dip system, within the teat cup was on many dairy farmers’ “wish list,” he said in a phone interview with Ontario Dairy Farmer magazine. Now that it’s reality, Goodwin says those that see it in operation are surprised at how good a job it does.

The 50-year-old teat cup design of most milking claws finally has a new rival. “It’s the first major step forward since automatic take-offs,” says Goodwin. The solution was contrived seven years ago by the Oxford-educated Jame Duke. He’s joint-director of Research Development and Innovations Ltd. (RDI), Dutch-British entrepreneurs and suppliers of milking equipment. ADF clusters are attached and cows are milked as normal. But when a signal is obtained indicating milking has finished, the ADF program is initiated. As the cluster is about to be removed, a measured amount of teat dip is dispensed into the head of each liner, coating each teat entirely. After cluster removal, the teat cup is sanitized and flushed repeatedly with compressed air and water, to provide a clean liner for the next cow.

The result is consistent post-dipping and a sanitized liner for every teat for each and every cow, at every milking. Research has shown that this critical period, while the teat is still distended and skin pores are open, is the best time to treat because it’s when teats are also most vulnerable to infection. The system operates with an iodine by based teat dip, compressed air and potable water. The teat cup and cluster have been completely redesigned by Duke.

Launched at Britain’s 2005 Dairy Event, which is considered to be Europe’s leading dairy show, the ADF system won the prestigious Prince Phillip Award there. The system has been shown to reduce mastitis, lower somatic cell counts and increase dairy throughputs, among other things. The ADF system automates the teat dipping and liner disinfection process.

By early 2006, it was in operation on 10 UK dairy farms from which improvements in cell counts and mastitis have been reported. RDI, the company behind the system says the units are easy to install and are suitable for all types of parlours. William Goodwin’s 700-cow operation was the second one which the system was installed, about 18 months ago. It was part of an aggressive plan to eliminate or better control a mastitis problem which had gotten out-ofhand. Two years ago, over 10 per cent of Goodwins’ herd was infected and his somatic cell count was rising. When they installed the ADF system, the Goodwins also changed some aspects of their housing and they changed udder prep routines. But William says the ADF system had an immediate impact. Cross-contamination of mastitis disappeared to zero and SCC went down from 350,000/ml to 250,000/ml within the first month. It is now down to 150,000/ml.

Teat condition, which was always scored by their veterinarian, has also improved significantly. Iodine use was greatly reduced because less was being wasted. And from a financial point of view, Goodwin says huge savings were realized when mastitis treatments were fewer. Medications alone had escalated to a cost equivalent to about $2,400 Canadian a month. More than 1,000 litres of milk was going down the drain every day in October and November 2004. At that rate, the ADF system paid for itself within eight months, says Goodwin.

“Mastitis costs more than the cost of treatment and lost milk,” Goodwin is cited as saying. “There’s the extra labour required in treating and milking mastitic cows and the knock on effects of the disease on cow health, fertility and welfare.” The ADF system operates quietly, he says. And it has been “incredibly reliable”. Since they have had the system, they have experienced only two sticking valves which could be rectified by hand.
He has not had to call anyone to service the unit in the past 18 months since its installation and that’s with 1,400 milkings a day. The ADF system has also boosted staff morale. Mastitis control is working and his staff is enthusiastic again. The Goodwins say they can also now dedicate more time to herd management and look at the bigger picture as well as details such as yields and fertility, instead of fighting disease.

Other testimonials include that of Julian Beeston of Moreton Hall Farms who has cut mastitis related drug use by 60 per cent after adopting the ADF system. Parlour throughputs have also reportedly increased. Producers are saying the ADF system dips teats better than it is possible to by hand. And the reduction in mastitis and subsequent decline in antibiotic use provides an overall welfare benefit.

James Duke of RDI says the reduction of mastitis on test farms has been between 50 and 75 per cent. He also says that one 550-cow herd calculated that the system allowed it to save seven hours of labour a day; four saved by not having to dip and three more saved by not having to strip out and treat problem cows.

On the 10 UK farms using the ADF system, the average somatic cell count has fallen from above 200,000/ml to below 150,000/ml. Mastitis is pretty much the same in developed nations worldwide, according to Dr. Ann Godkin, dairy animal health specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Godkin believes the ADF system could be useful in Canadian herds if it can reduce the spread of the Staph aureus-caused mastitis infection.

“We figure that most herds have at least one infected cow, so the potential for spread is pretty high, given a break in dipping routine,” she says. “Herds that buy cows are always at risk of purchasing an infected cow.” An automated system would remove the human variability factor from postmilking teat dipping, says Godkin, which is very difficult to do perfectly with every teat, every cow and at every milking, especially as herds enlarge.

The larger the herd, the greater the chance of variability in the milking routine, says Godkin. The list of touted ADF system benefits includes: reduced vet bills, reduced incidence of mastitis, better teat end scores, fewer cull cows, better milk quality, reduced bactoscan, lowered SCCs, less antibiotics, less milk dumped, better parlour throughputs and more management time available to spend on cows.

When used over time, hyperkeratosis - prevelance of rough or calloused teat ends - is also reduced. The improved welfare claim is a result of immediate application of teat dips with less handling and the reduction of treatment and needling accompanied by improved health.

Vets in the U.K. reportedly recommend 30 seconds between when milkers come off and when teats are dipped or sprayed. In reality, manual application usually occurs two to three minutes after milkers are removed. It has also been noticed that often the first cows that go through parlours with conventional milkers are the ones staying free of infection.

Vets have discovered that mastitis bacteria in the teat cup can easily be transferred from one cow to another and survive between eight and 16 milkings. “Modern engineered injection moulded plastic is used for the teat cups which makes it very strong and allows an ergonomic design that is easy to keep clean and handle by the operator,” says one report. The new system also eliminates tugging at teats to overcome residual vacuum pressure.

It cost Goodwin about $48,000 (Can.) to install the system or about $1,200 per milking stall or parlour point plus the cost of the control box. The system is not yet designed to apply barrier dips that can last longer Automated dipping for protection against environmental mastitis. But RDI director Joe Dietrich says they are still developing the system to be able to make use of better dips. Contacts have been made with North American distributors although none had been selected at the time of writing this article. RDI does plan, however, to market their system out of individually owned local dealerships. The company’s website is