The last few years have been trying for everyone in the dairy industry, and dairy farmers are no exception to that. As a hoof trimmer of 18 years, I have been on hundreds of dairy farms worldwide and continue to be amazed by the levels of digital dermatitis (DD) I still see when visiting farms.

In the early part of 2020, I received a phone call from a new farm in the Midwest. They were calling because their hairy wart problem had gotten worse in the past few months leading up to their call. I asked the typical questions: How often are you trimming? Do you have a footbath on the farm? Are you using the footbath and how often? What are you using in the footbath?

They were trimming twice per year, though they were not doing interval trimming in the optimal time frame. For the footbath, they had a very well-designed bath and were running it three times per week using dry copper sulfate. We talked a bit more and set up a time for me to come out and investigate what was going on with his herd.

Upon arrival, everything the dairy producer claimed was true. They had a very nice footbath and a very nice herd of cattle in a well-designed, comfortable barn. I looked at the suspect cows, and they had DD and needed a better-scheduled maintenance program in place. Next, we went to his footbath to see what was going on. He was running dry copper sulfate but wasn’t running it at the proper percentage or frequency to have the desired results. Therefore, a lot of time and money was being wasted, as well as missing out on a lot of production. In fact, they were running about half as much as I would recommend to control DD and only half as frequently as well.

I told him I would finish trimming the ones that needed to be trimmed and wanted to show him how to get his herd down to zero warts with the copper sulfate product he was using.

The new protocol doubled the amount of product and increased frequency to seven days a week. The producer pushed back on what the cost would be to run the bath at full strength. I explained that dry copper sulfate is a great product, but it needs to run at proper strength and frequency, especially with the weather conditions of the Midwest. I assured him that if he followed the protocol, warts would get wiped out and he would see the benefits. He agreed to run the protocol and agreed that I would follow up in about a month, revisiting the farm and the protocol.

Upon my return one month later, the producer happily stated, “You’re going to notice that our hairy warts have pretty well dried up, and the cows are doing amazing.” The extra cost of the footbath was minimal compared to the increase in performance they experienced from the cows. Now that he knew what a herd free from DD could be like, the next step I proposed was to switch the product to one that was lower cows and could be used less frequently (back to three times per week). He was hesitant at first and certainly did not want to do anything that would jeopardize his cows going back to having DD in the barn again.

However, with trust in the process, the results spoke for themselves. With the barn free of DD, a lot of the factors contributing to the success of a dairy had increased, like the milk production, conception rate, and the lowering of cull rate, which also gave the dairy more power to choose which cows to cull in order to retain some of the better genetics and improve overall herd quality.

I have started working with and helping other hoof professionals with footbath management, as they are truly the ones who know the hoof situation on each dairy they service and often have the resources to help but are overlooked or not consulted with. Many of us, as professional trimmers, are dedicated to taking care of cows and helping them reach their full potential. We can achieve this by working with producers to put a proper maintenance trimming and footbath schedule in place. This means there are fewer lame cows and fewer cows that need wraps and other treatments to correct problems we would rather be part of solving on the front end.

I think we can all agree that, in the end, we owe the cows the best care possible, and that is paid back with positive results.

No two dairy farm operations are alike. But working with the people who know your cows’ feet the best to help put protocols in place can lead to the solution that has your herd free from DD and performing at their best.

Article originally appeared in Progressive Dairy- https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/herd-health/how-one-dairy-herd-recovered-from-a-hairy-wart-problem?fbclid=IwAR1sjiDEdFMSplyB79HGyBi1i4xC93ZWXwOrcn2tZ6uhsiW3k3o-EhCsEG8

Footbath protocols are vital to ensuring hoof health in your herd. Over the years, dairy producers across the globe have adapted their operations to have footbaths on the farm to help ward off infectious hoof diseases such as digital dermatitis.

Every dealer and hoof trimmer will recommend different products to put in your footbath, but the majority agree that you need a footbath to help keep your herd standing.

Besides the product in the footbath, recently one of the more discussed topics is the size of the footbath and its importance. To the best of my knowledge, there has been very little, if any, scientific research done on the topic. Most of the recommendations that have been published are reciting what seems to have worked at various places integrated with some “that makes sense” logic.

The most recommended footbath model proposes the bath be 10 to 12 feet in length, 24 inches wide and at least 10 inches deep with sidewalls angled inward. The thought process behind this was and is sound. At 10 to 12 feet in length, a cow could not jump the footbath and would get at least three to four “dunks” of the hooves into the footbath solution. The depth would be so the cow would be forced to step in the bath and would also help prevent splash out of the solution; at these dimensions, it would be wide enough for a cow to comfortably walk through the bath. The angled walls were designed so the cow could not just walk around the bath. Instead, they would be forced to walk into the bath.

how does the dairy farm use the footbath for cattle

The logic and design behind this are solid. However, through the years, I believe a different footbath approach is better not only for the cows but for your overall operation.

Before going into the design I have been implementing for the last few years, I want to point out: When it comes to hoof health, there are many factors that go into making sure your cows have healthy hooves. This includes prioritizing cow comfort, reducing stress, footbath, hoof trimming, and recognizing and treating lameness. The design I have been working with was done to improve cow comfort and reduce their stress.

Through observation and discussion with hoof trimmers, I started to notice that the long and narrow approach, while it works and I still install them, has its flaws.

1Organic loading – With having such a long footbath, it became filled with organic matter as there was more bath for the cows to load it. Some additives become neutralized by organic matter, which would require more replenishing and total flush-outs of the footbath.

2. Cow flow – Being only 24 inches wide only allows one cow to go at a time. When you have a pen of cows walking down the alley, this can create a log jam at the bath. This hinders overall cow flow and can cause stress on the cows en route to be milked, as they now have to “battle” to get through the bath.

3. Larger cows – If you compare the size of a cow from 2000, or even 2010, to today’s average cow body size, you will notice that they are larger today. Are the 24 inches and angled walls big enough for them to comfortably walk through, or are they bumping and scraping along?

After recognizing these observations, I started installing wider and shorter footbaths. The most common size I implemented was 6 feet wide, 8 feet long and 8 inches high. I did this for a few reasons.

  1. Dunks – As previously stated, no true studies have been done on footbaths. I do not believe you need three to four dunks, and I have confidence that after two dunks, the hoof has absorbed all the additive it will absorb, and any additional dunks would be wasted product.
  2. Organic loading – By creating a shorter distance, in theory the less organic load should enter the bath. This would allow the solutions in the bath to work for more cow passes before having to replenish or flush out the bath.
  3. Cow flow – With a wider bath, two to three cows could walk through the bath at the same time. This would lessen the log jam, create less stress, and increase their comfort level, as they aren’t bumping into angled walls.
  4. Natural gait – Having a more shallow footbath meant a cow didn’t have to stop, inspect what the lip of the bath was, then step into the bath. The shallower design allowed a cow to walk straight into the bath without impeding its stride.
cow footbath design

This type of bath has been successful for farms on which it has been installed. However, it is not perfect for all farms, as the size of the bath may not fit into the parlor design on your operation. Before installing any footbath, it is best to have a discussion with your hoof trimmer about hoof care protocols and what type of footbath design they suggest.

Article originally appeared on https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/herd-health/footbath-design-is-yours-getting-the-job-done

PRESS RELEASE

Paris, October 7, 2021

Kersia announces the signing of an exclusive agreement for acquiring a majority stake in AgroChem to pursue development in the US

A global leader in food safety, International group Kersia continues its international expansion acquiring majority stake in US-based dairy hygiene specialist AgroChem beside the DeMarco family who remains minority shareholder. With this important milestone, Kersia becomes a significant player in the US dairy farm hygiene market further reinforcing and diversifying its US operations.

With more than 1,850 employees and a presence in 120 countries, Kersia has developed a complete and unique offering in the global agri-food and agricultural safety markets.

A common DNA and important opportunities for synergies.

This new partnership is based on the great potential for positive synergies between the two entities, both of which have a global reach, solid industry experience, and broad geographic coverage. They complement each other in terms of solutions and market segments.  

AgroChem Inc. based in Saratoga Springs, New York, has experienced solid growth since its creation in 2005 and is now a leading US dairy farm hygiene player. Equipped with modern industrial facilities and an integrated Research & Development center, AgroChem specializes in the manufacture and marketing of solutions for dairy farms, including: hoof health, udder care, and milk house cleaners. In addition to AgroChem, an affiliate company, Biosan LLC specializes in peracetic acid and will offer a full line of EPA registered and FDA accepted products suited to a variety of industries including: dairy, meat & vegetable processing, water treatment, and healthcare. A winning combination provided by two growing entities and the values and entrepreneurial spirit shared by Kersia and AgroChem.

The combined group will count on the solid experience of Robert DeMarco, the current AgroChem President who will continue to lead the company and to drive the development in the market while creating value for current and future customers.

Already present in the food industry hygiene sector, this strategic acquisition allows Kersia to strengthen its presence on the US farm market with a range of multi-species hygiene solutions. These complementary technologies, expertise, and human resources will enable Kersia to accelerate its international development and position itself to seize new market and acquisition opportunities in North America.

A new strategic move for Kersia inNorth America following the acquisition of Choisy Laboratories ("Choisy"), in 2019, a leading developer and manufacturer of chemical, biotechnology, and biosafety solutions based in Canada.

Sébastien BOSSARD, CEO of Kersia

It is a pleasure to welcome Rob DeMarco and his teams to Kersia; to strengthen our presence in the US, to address Food Safety in our core business segments Farm and Food-Industry has been our goal for several years.  AgroChem Inc., its location, its solutions, its recognition, its skills, its industrial capacities, and above all its entrepreneurial family DNA is a perfect match for our objectives. With Rob, we have a great ambition to invent new food safety solutions in this large American market where citizens have increasingly high demands. Thank you to the DeMarco family for their confidence; we are delighted with the agreement that will allow our two Groups, together, to develop strongly.

Robert DeMarco, President of AgroChem

We are excited to join Kersia in this new partnership to strengthen and develop our presence in the US food safety market.  With Kersia by our side, AgroChem will fortify its market-leading position in the US dairy industry and pursue related markets where our combined products and technologies will impact food safety from farm to fork.  Internationally, we are better positioned to grow key products in countries where Kersia is well established.  We will continue to foster innovation, develop our employees, and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that has been key to our success. I have always felt that our goals and values are closely aligned and look forward to working with Sebastien and the Kersia team.   

The transaction remains subject to customary regulatory approvals.

About Kersia

Kersia is a global leader in food safety, providing value-added solutions that prevent animal and human contamination at all stages of the food chain. The group also offers differentiated niche solutions to the human health sector. Kersia operates in more than 120 countries.

www.kersia-group.com

About AgroChem, Inc.

AgroChem, Inc. is a family-owned and operated manufacturing company located in Saratoga Springs, New York that specializes in supplying efficient products and solutions for hygiene challenges. Products include hoof care products, teat dips, hay and forage preservatives, and cleaning products. In addition to AgroChem, an affiliate company, Biosan LLC specializes in peracetic acid, a more environmentally-friendly alternative to chlorine bleach.

All AgroChem, Inc. products are proudly researched, developed, and manufactured in their state-of-the-art facility in Saratoga Springs, New York.

With a hoof care career that has spanned over 40 years, you could say I have seen a thing or two when it comes to the success of hoof health products.

This is especially true in the last 20 years as foot hygiene has become a critical success factor for many dairy operations. Within the footbath, copper sulfate has been a popular commodity product that has set the standard by which other products are measured. It continues to be the workhorse and success of many footbath programs and is now available in a variety of products.

Why copper sulfate?

Commercially available copper sulfate is typically sold in 50-pound bags as copper sulfate pentahydrate, which consists of approximately 25.5% copper and 38.5% sulfate. As a widely available commodity, prices tend to be consistent across multiple retailers. Its antimicrobial properties have been known for centuries. With respect to hoof hygiene, copper sulfate excels at dealing with hoof rot and is useful in the prevention of digital dermatitis when used at higher concentrations. It is also capable of improving hoof hardness, which is critical in modern dairies.

When used in a footbath, copper sulfate powder must be mixed with water; otherwise, it can remain as large undissolved clumps at the bottom of the footbath, where it won’t help hooves. The need to mix can preclude its use in an automated footbath system. Copper sulfate is also prone to rapid deactivation when copper ions combine with ions from manure, urine, and other organics in the water. Lastly, the price of copper sulfate is currently at an all-time high due to the rebounding economy and other economic forces.

Branded hoof care products that contain copper sulfate in liquid form have been developed to address some of the issues inherent to copper sulfate powder. For instance, they can be used in automated footbath dosing systems, they easily mix in water, and they can be formulated with additives to make copper sulfate more efficient. However, it can be difficult to assess the effectiveness unless the buyer knows the percentage of copper sulfate in the product and the usage rate in the footbath. Ultimately, copper sulfate concentration in the footbath is the best predictor of results. The more copper sulfate you have in the footbath, the greater its success due to the antimicrobial capability and the better job it can do coating the tubulars of the hoof horn to reduce moisture and improve hoof hardness.

How concentrated is your copper sulfate?

The concentration of copper sulfate is also the greatest driver of the product cost. Concentrations of 5% to as high as 20% by weight can be found on the market. A product with 5% copper should usually cost less than a product with more copper. Knowing the density of the product, you can determine the pounds of copper per gallon of product. For instance, if the density of the product is 10 pounds per gallon and the label says it contains 20% copper sulfate, then you will have 2 pounds of copper sulfate per gallon of product. You can always ask the manufacturer for the product density and percent copper sulfate if not listed on the label.

The next factor in determining copper concentration is the usage rate, which is usually expressed as a percentage of the total volume (percent v/V) or gallon of product per gallon of water (g/G). The concentration of copper sulfate in the footbath is a function of the amount of copper sulfate in the product and the usage rate. For instance, if a product contains 2 pounds of copper sulfate and has a usage rate of 10% v/V (or 5 gallons per 50 gallons), then you would have a total of 10 pounds of copper sulfate in your footbath.

Understanding copper concentration in the footbath can help you to evaluate various products because it directly relates to the product’s potential to be effective. This information can also be helpful when evaluating the relative cost. By determining the cost per pound of copper sulfate in the footbath, you will have a tool for comparison of different product offerings.

So how much copper do you need in the bath?

The answer depends on several factors, including time of year, hoof hygiene, and the problem you are trying to counter. If you have dirty hooves or a heavy soil load in your bath, you may need to run a bath with 10 to 15 pounds of copper, as soil loading can neutralize the copper ions. If you have very clean hooves and the soil load is manageable, you may be able to have success with 5 to 10 pounds.

To counter dirty hooves and organic loading, some products include a surfactant to aid in the removal of caked-on dirt and manure. Some products also include additives to make copper sulfate last longer. These additives slow the rate at which copper’s ions are neutralized by organic matter like urine and manure, which are released into the bath. Therefore, less copper can work longer before a footbath change is needed. While these additives contribute to the product cost, copper sulfate comprises most of the cost.

Teat dips are all designed to protect the teat from the environment with various forms of germicide and an even greater variety of conditioning packages. The purpose of teat dipping is to provide a germicide that will kill mastitis-causing germs and apply skin conditioners that keep teat skin and ends healthy.

These are both essential to minimize mastitis risks. So most know and understand what the germicide is, but do you really know the conditioning (or emollient) package? At the dairy level, we all gauge the effectiveness of a conditioning package by the percentage of emollient included; however, there is much more to it than just the percent of conditioners.

So when we look at the conditioning package, what exactly does that consist of? There are a variety of products used as conditioners in teat dips. Glycerin, propylene glycol, lanolin, aloe, sorbitol, and more. So how do we know which one is best or what mix of them brings the most benefit? This is the reason we look to the total percentage of emollient in our dip. It’s easier to explain and allows us to categorize our dips despite the variety of conditioners or disinfecting properties. The details can be overwhelming, so we rely on the manufacturers/suppliers to give us the best product for our needs. But there are some basic ways to understand more about the conditioning, giving you good questions to ask of your teat dip providers.

What does our conditioning package do? What are we expecting?

A good way of understanding this is to look at the cosmetic industry. In 2019, the skincare industry totaled $532 billion dollars. I know we are not spending all that money just for vanity’s sake. There are actually a few basic needs met in most of these beauty products, and we can carry these over to the dairy cow’s needs as well. The need for softer skin, hydrating or moisturizing properties, soothing feeling, and/or healing of damaged tissue are a few common issues related to skin conditioning. We use our teat dips to offset the effects of humidity, harsh environmental conditions, damage from milking systems, and sometimes even genetics. Now we can work to better each of these areas individually, giving our cows a better experience, but we still need conditioners for the factors we cannot change.

So what is an emollient? It is defined as having the power of softening or relaxing. As a medicinal substance, it is soothing to the skin. We use this term almost exclusively in our industry; however, many of the products listed above are actually humectants. What is the difference? An emollient is a material that soothes and softens the skin ... humectants have an affinity for molecules of water; therefore, they are hydrating agents since they attract moisture to the skin. Moisturizers hydrate the skin.

Glycerin is the most-used humectant in teat dips. With the properties of being able to draw moisture from the air to the skin, it is a great benefit to the teat skin. Much of the time, a glycerin conditioner dip can do the job efficiently. But what about when the air is lacking moisture? You can actually in those instances draw the moisture away from the teat into the air. This is where an emollient like lanolin can save the day. Humectant ingredients actually pull moisture in. Lanolin itself is not a humectant. It can trap water once the teat skin is wet. Lanolin is classified as an emollient and an occlusive moisturizer, which means it has the ability to slow water loss from the skin, acting as a protectant.

Going back to the skincare world again, we can gain a better understanding of the differences by looking at human moisturizers. The ingredients in moisturizers are often divided into occlusive agents, humectants and emollients. Occlusive agents physically prevent or retard water loss. Emollients soften or soothe the skin by filling spaces between skin flakes and creating a smooth skin surface. A humectant attracts and retains the moisture in the air nearby via absorption, drawing the water vapor into or beneath the organism’s or object’s surface. Keep in mind, each of these in itself under average conditions can bring the control of the teat condition you desire. It’s when your conditions start to see stressors that it becomes important to understand your environment as well as the conditioners you want to use.

What really does affect teat condition?

Having the right ingredients for the conditions you are battling is important. Is it humidity that has dropped, and you need to replace moisture in the skin tissue? Think about how dry and cracked your hands or feet can get in the winter, especially if they are exposed to wet conditions and then the dry winter air regularly. The same conditions affect cows’ teats. Dry, cracked teats can easily harbor more bacteria and keep the teat sphincter from closing as quickly and completely as healthy teats. In this case, having something that will aid in replacing lost oils and bring more moisture into the skin is key. Or do you have an extremely damp and wet environment? This is when the barrier protecting properties is important. Has there been irritation from milking equipment failure or an improper procedure? The soothing need is greatest now. Did the bedding conditions get out of hand and cause damage to the teat tissue? Healing properties need to be at the forefront of your solution for these conditions. So many factors go into affecting the teat condition that it cannot always be just “a good high-emollient dip” that will keep your teats looking great. Limiting the stress factors on the teat, combined with the right dip, will make teats healthier.

Can I add extra emollients on my own?

Never add extra conditioners to dip on your own. The saying “too much of a good thing” can hold true with some emollients. Formulation matters. The wrong combination could cause more harm than good by reducing the kill of your dip package or by actually pulling moisture from the teat rather than the air. Check with your manufacturing representative as to the proper formulations and quantities.

What is it going to cost me?

Having the right emollient package can sometimes be viewed as too expensive. Yes, there is a cost to more conditioning properties, but if you take the time to plan for what you need, most of it can be easily managed. When it comes to the overall cost of teat damage and the related costs in mastitis, lost milk and possibly losing additional lactations of a cow, the money adds up quickly. To keep your costs in check, do regular re-evaluations of your current top need for teat condition. If you are in a part of the country that sees strong seasonal changes, re-evaluate with every season. Fill the need before it becomes a problem. You and your cows will have a lot less stress in doing so. 

My cell count is going up; it must be the dip.”

These are things we hear when talking and working with dairy producers, and oftentimes it is the main reason for our conversation, and rightfully so. SCC is an important aspect of being a dairy producer.

Typically, when SCC (somatic cell count) goes up, teat dips is the first place that gets examined. I will admit that some germicides and formulations are more effective than others against certain bacteria; however, there are other instances and locations on a farm that also need to be inspected beside the teat dips and maintained to help keep your counts down. Before you call the dealer asking to switch dips, take a look at these areas first.

Parlor equipment

Look at the primary area associated with SCC. Dirty pulsators and vacuum controllers can malfunction and cause teat-end damage which, in turn, can lead to increased rates of new infections. Also, check your liners. If they are ripped or aging, they can harbor bacteria and cause teat damage. Routine inspections of the equipment do not take much time but can save you money if you spot an issue early enough.

How consistent are workers?

The workers in the parlor are sources for bacteria. Are milkers properly washing their hands, wearing clean gloves or properly cleaning manual dipping cups? Are they properly applying pre- and post-dip?

Turnover is a constant for dairy farms. With employees coming and going, it is very easy for teat dip procedures to fluctuate without anyone noticing until it’s too late. Properly training employees on the procedures and posting them can help with consistency. If there is a language barrier between managers and employees, it is best to try to bring in a trainer who can properly communicate the procedures and post the procedures in multiple languages.

The stalls

This seems straightforward: Clean the stalls. It may be labor-intensive, but it can go a long way to helping keep cows healthy. With manure, the chance of udders leaking milk, and everything else happening there, the stalls are ripe for harvesting bacteria.

Stalls should be cleaned regularly and, as an added preventative measure, should be sprayed with an EPA-registered sanitizer with registered animal premise label claims. These sanitizers undergo rigid testing and require scientific data showing they reduce or kill certain bacteria to receive these claims.

Cow comfort

Cow comfort is one of the most important things for quality milk. When cows are stressed in general it is harder to drop milk, cow flow is uneven, and stressed cows release higher levels of hormones that stifle immune function in their blood. Good cow comfort, appropriate cow handling procedures and sufficient stall space, clean water and feed space can go a long way toward reducing the stress levels.

Weather

Weather is one thing we cannot control. All we can do is prepare and adapt to its challenges. Weather can be a major contributor to elevated SCC. Rain will give bacteria the moisture it needs to grow. Humidity and heat will also contribute to bacteria growth and added stress to a herd. Proper ventilation and air flow are key to helping combat this.  

Article originally appeared in Progressive Dairyman

The proper use of a copper footbath can be an effective component of a herd’s hoof health program.  Digital dermatitis (also referred to as hairy heel warts, heel warts, etc.) and hoof rot are two hoof problems that can be controlled by the consistent use of footbaths.

A staple on many dairy operations these days, thanks to its efficacy in treating and preventing hoof health problems, is copper sulfate.

Copper sulfate’s antibacterial properties help keep the hoof clean, and it also has a hardening effect on the claw horn. The popularity of copper sulfate footbaths can be attributed to both its perceived relatively low cost per cow pass and common assessment among farmers it effectively controls infectious lesions. Research has shown that using these types of footbaths decreases both the incidence and severity of hoof lesions.

Unfortunately, the price of copper is known for volatile price swings. On March 23, 2020, the cost per pound was $2.10 whereas March 23, 2021 the closing price was $4.12. (Source: NASDAQ Commodity Price). Based on when you and/or your dealer purchased copper sulfate and how much was purchased your bill may or may not have changed much yet. When the re-order comes due, the wallet may feel a bit tighter.

With those price swings, it is understandable for farmers to start looking for alternatives to dry copper. The two main alternatives:

HEALMAX®

HEALMAX® Footbath Concentrate is a biodegradable footbath additive that maintains the control of digital dermatitis better than any other non-formaldehyde product. It is effective year-round and does not lose its efficacy when the temperatures drop. When paired with a Footbath Dosing System, the cost per cow pass is comparable or even lower than that of formaldehyde.

HOOFMAX®

For operations that prefer copper, a booster may be the way to go. The purpose of these boosters is to keep copper in suspension so they can do their job. Using a product such as HOOFMAX® can cut you usage up to 80%. HOOFMAX® binds to hydroxide ions found in manure and urine, preventing them from neutralizing copper ions, thus making more copper available for killing pathogens. This allows you to achieve roughly 400 cow passes before having to change out the copper footbath compared to 150 cow passes with just copper by itself.

Not long ago, my colleague Chip and I visited a 600-cow dairy farm in Texas that was looking for some help. They were claimed to be struggling with these things:

  1. Hoof issues: Cows were showing a gait and walking on their toes
  2. Decreased milk output
  3. Efficiency: Milking was taking additional time, thus slowing down the rest of the operation. Milking time had gone from two hours to nearly 3.5 hours.

What could be the underlying issues? We rolled up our sleeves to find out.

Following cow flow

Being hoof trimmers by trade, the hoof issue was the first thing we examined. We visited the footbath first. It was being used frequently and at the proper concentration levels with a programmed footbath dosing system running HEALMAX® Footbath Concentrate. After footbath inspection, we asked the herdsman to take us to the stalls and walk us through the entire milking process so we could gain a clearer picture of the operation. The herd was about to go in for its second milking, giving us a perfect view of the operation.

cattle handling systems

In the barn, the stalls were very clean. The floor was only a couple of years old and still in great shape. We followed the cows’ path from the barn, then down a path outside and into the holding pen. Observing the outside path, we noticed the herd was walking on the edges of the lane instead of spreading out over the path; some cows were walking with a gait. We also noticed that just beyond the path, there were a few knocked-over trees and brush piles. In talking with the manager, we learned a nasty rainstorm had blown down the trees and caused some small-scale floods on the farm. We also learned he and another employee trimmed in-house and, if they noticed foot issues, their plan of action was an increase in footbath days.

We immediately recommended he bring in an outside hoof trimmer (not us, our days of trimming are for younger folks) to take a look at the herd due to the gaits we noticed. Then we looked closer at the path and realized the camber (sloped angle of the path) appeared to be off. Now cows love walking on flat surfaces, but when outside, a path must have a slight camber (less than 8 degrees) for water runoff. Anything more than that causes the cow to be uncomfortable walking. Her reaction will be to slow down and try to find the flattest part on which to walk. Due to the storm, it appeared the path was eroded, and the camber was 13 degrees.

The herdsman said he noticed the cows all started walking down the same side of the path each time they came in the pen, but he thought it was just a weird habit they developed. This habit ended up being developed because they weren’t comfortable with the angled surface which, in turn, forced the herd to slow down movement to the pen. Angled surfaces also play a role in hoof health. If a surface is uneven or rough, it can cause parts of the hoof to become uneven, creating pressure points which can lead to an array of hoof issues. We recommended fixing the path as soon as possible and to bring in an outside hoof trimmer to inspect the herd.

Once the herd reached the pen, they all started to settle in. This farm had a round pen with an electric push-button back gate. An ideal pen gives cows about a yard between each other, and this pen checked that box. (If a pen is tight, the cows get uncomfortable and uneasy.)

As the herd was allowed into the parlor, down the alley towards the footbath, the herdsman operated the push-button back gate. The gate was moving about a yard every five seconds but would only advance with another push of the button. This is something we recommend on larger farms, as a turn-on switch that automatically moves at a linear pace of 1 yard every five seconds has the potential to physically touch the cows in the back of the herd and not stop. The push button is preferred so you avoid the back gate from physically hitting and potentially harming the cows. This farm’s pen was set up the exact way we would have set it up, and it moved on to the alley toward the footbath.

The herd as a whole was slow to move into the building from the pen, even though the lead cow moved in pretty quickly, and the alley was roughly 5 yards wide. When we made our way into the building, we noticed how much darker the entrance was compared to being outside. Cows, by nature, do not like the dark. Going from a bright location (such as outside) to a dark indoor area makes them hesitant. I recommended they switch to an LED bulb to brighten the area and ease the transition.

Traffic jam at the footbath

All of a sudden, there was a traffic jam in the alley, right at the footbath. The 5-yard-wide alley quickly funneled down to a single-yard width for the footbath. Cows had their heads up and didn’t want to go into the bath, halting them from entering the parlor. When the cow did go into the bath, some of the larger ones that had trouble fitting into the footbath alley slowed down and soiled the bath. Others would sprint just to get through it. This set-up clearly was not working for the herd. Our recommendations were to change the set-up.

After a few frustrating moments at the footbath, the cows made it to the parlor, which was about 20 years old. We noticed that some went right into the parlor to get milked, while the bigger cows moved slowly and needed extra encouragement to get into the stall. We stressed to the herdsman that cow comfort is extremely important in all areas of the farm. If the parlor stalls are uncomfortable, the cow will be slow to go into the stall; that stress interferes with milk letdown. He needs to make sure the entire process for the cow is a positive experience.

Our conclusions and recommendations

We sat down with the owner and head herdsman to share our conclusions:

1. Hoof issues: Hoof issues were most likely caused by the uneven path and poor flow through the footbath. The increased soiling in the bath can easily cause a footbath additive to lose its efficacy; further, cows sprinting through the bath most likely were not seeing proper absorption of the additive. The overall increase in time spent milking the herd was due to a lack of cow comfort. If the cows were comfortable, they would move at a solid pace from Point A to Point B. Once they start becoming uncomfortable, they slow down.

2. Decreased milk production and milking efficiency: We attributed the production decrease to a milk letdown interference. Cows were stressed before they entered the parlor. Combine that with a parlor stall designed 15 years ago for a smaller-sized cow, it’s no wonder the herd reduced production. We spoke about how important it was to make sure the cow was comfortable during the entire process from the stall to the parlor.

Our recommendation: Fixing the path, the lighting and the alley by the footbath should increase the pace/speed it takes the cows to get to the parlor.

The results

About a month later, I came back to the farm at the owner’s request and noticed some changes. The dairy team changed the things within their ability, though bigger changes to the parlor will occur at a later point in time.

They fixed the path between the stall and pens, and now it had a camber of 5 degrees. The cows were now walking three to four cows wide down the path into the pen, at a nice pace, and the gait appeared to be gone. The parlor building switched to LED bulbs throughout the building, which brightened the place right up, and the herd exited the pen without issue into the alley.

Near the footbath, the traffic jam was no more. They changed the way the alley funneled so it was a more gradual decrease in width. The flow through the footbath was smooth, and the herdsman said soil load in the bath decreased. A call to the hoof trimmer was helpful in identifying uneven hooves and some underlying foot issues.

With all of these tweaks, the manager reported that the time it took to milk the herd dropped back down to 2.5 hours (saving him an hour) and milk production had increased. In the end, cows are happier, healthier and more productive, and the dairy manager has a few less headaches.

“That’s the way we have always done it.”

That is a very scary phrase. It typically implies that you are not changing or looking to improve. It can also imply that you have done it for so long, you may be getting lax in some areas and not realize it.

When it comes to a dairy’s clean-in-place (CIP) routine and products, “That’s the way we have always done it” could be costing you milk quality.

With money at stake, let us take a refresher on the CIP basics.

Milking equipment cleanliness and proper functionality play a big role in improving or maintaining a low standard plate count (SPC) or bacteria count. Milk “soils” which challenge milking system cleaning include proteins, micro-organisms, minerals, sugars and fatty acids. It is believed that today’s high-producing cows create six different types of fatty acids, causing additional cleaning challenges. If done properly, the CIP process attacks each of these challenge areas. The process generally consists of four phases: pre-rinse, cleaning (single- or two-step), acid and sanitizing.

Clean in Place (CIP) Basics

Pre-rinse phase

The pre-rinse phase is arguably the most important phase during the CIP process, as this phase should remove 90% to 95% of milk’s soils. To effectively remove contaminants, we recommend flushing the system with 110ºF to 120ºF water and keep flushing until the rinse water discharge is clear. It is extremely important that you do not re-circulate this rinse water. If you recirculate the water, you are just re-introducing proteins, soils and bacteria into your system, which is counterproductive.

Many cleaning challenges we find on farms are traced back to inadequate pre-rinse procedures. When the pre-rinse is inadequate, some farms attempt to make up by using a higher concentration of chemicals in the cleaning, acid and sanitizing steps, or do not change anything and live with the high bacteria counts. Using higher concentrations costs the producer more than just money; there’s potential for increased groundwater contamination and possible system damage, including discoloration of stainless steel and damage to plastic and rubber components.

Cleaning phase

The cleaning phase, which follows the pre-rinse phase, can be either a single-step or two-step process, depending on the detergents selected. Cleaners carry out four basic functions to keep soils in suspension until removal: penetrate soil, lift soil from surface, break up soil into small particles and saponify (decompose) fatty acids.

Not all of these detergents are created equal, and that is intentional, as selecting the proper detergent is a science. The correct detergent and proper usage ratio will depend on factors relevant to the dairy, such as water hardness, iron content, water use, soil type, soil load and size and type of equipment.

The main constant for the detergents is that, in order to be effective, detergents need the correct wash water temperature throughout the wash cycle. Water at the end of the cycle must be a minimum of 120ºF; on most farms, that means starting temperatures need to be approximately 160ºF.

If these temperatures cannot be achieved, producers need to use products specifically designed for lower water temperatures. These lower water temperature detergents are often marketed as

"Reduced Temperature Cleaner"Download

Acid phase

Because detergents (soaps) and chlorine typically leave behind mineral deposits, the acid phase follows the cleaning phase. Acid circulation in CIP procedures is included to remove encrusted protein and salts from the surfaces. Acids are most effective at removing detergents and chlorine residuals. Add just enough acid to warm water (100ºF to 120ºF) to get a pH of 3 to 4. If the acid rinse is 68ºF or lower, use a non-foaming acid. If silicates are present in the dairy’s water, do not let the pH drop below 5.

Sanitizing phase

The final step is the sanitizing phase. To comply with Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) regulations, circulate an EPA-registered sanitizing solution, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, no more than 30 minutes prior to the next milking shift. If producers follow the recommended sanitizing phase, 99.9% of bacteria should be eliminated.

It should be noted that there are many different chemicals which can be used as a sanitizer. Each of them have their own benefits and should be looked at accordingly. Some may or may not be compatible with your system, which could lead to corrosion.

Advanced chemicals

Those are the basic steps for CIP. Now chemistry has evolved over time, which is a good thing. Some companies have been able to create products that combine the cleaning and acid phases, and others have a product that can combine the acid and sanitizing phases. When used properly, these products can help reduce time, overall chemical use, energy and water, as some of these products are no-rinse solutions.

Additionally, as dairies start installing robots, check with the manufacturer for what types of products will work with the robot. Some of these robots do not work well with chlorine and could damage your investment.

Some companies have also developed “shock treatment” additives for your system. While some of these do work, they are not meant to be used as an alternative to a proper CIP cleaning procedure. I repeat, do not rely on shock treatments, as they only delay the inevitable. They are good for the occasional treatment but are not meant to be a final solution to soil buildup. A consistent CIP process after milking is the best way to ensure clean lines and a step toward those milk premiums.

Final thoughts

It doesn’t matter if you have a typical milking system or robots; over time, protein, fat and mineral buildups occur in pipelines. Proper cleaning procedures should reduce or eliminate buildup. Strive to clean the system with a consistent, cost-effective and environmentally friendly procedure.

In summary, remember that several factors impact cleaning – time, temperature, chemicals/concentration, mechanical effect, water quality, soil being removed, type of surface being cleaned, cleaning method and people. To maximize cleaning effectiveness, make sure each factor is performing at its optimum.

Just like all the tasks on your farm, it takes teamwork to maintain an efficient and properly functioning milking system that fosters quality milk production. I recommend working with your milk cooperative field representative, veterinarian, financial adviser, equipment service technician and chemical company representative to set standard operating procedures for the dairy’s employees and monitor the results. The team should meet (at least) once a quarter to review results and progress and develop and implement any necessary new action steps to improve quality milk production.

Whether you are at home or at work, it is important to keep areas free of germs to try to prevent the spread of diseases. When it comes to this, the words clean, sanitize, and disinfect are often used interchangeably. But there is a significant difference between the terms, and technical differences as well. Additionally, knowing the difference between them can help you to know exactly what products to buy, and how to use them to keep your home or workplace clean, safe, and healthy.

While at the core of it, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are aimed to achieve the same objective, creating a hygienic environment. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these actions can be defined as:

It is important to note however that before you sanitize or disinfect you need to clean the surface first. Germs can hide underneath dirt and other material on surfaces where they are not affected a sanitizer or disinfectant. Dirt and organic material can also reduce the germ-killing ability of some sanitizers and disinfectants. Typically, cleaning is the first step toward the goal of creating a hygienic environment.

how to disinfect properly

Cleaning refers to simply removing dirt and other impurities from a surface.  To effectively sanitizes, and/or disinfect; a surface needs to be clean.  Once the surface is clean, the sanitizer or disinfectant can better do its job of reducing or eliminating harmful bacteria.

Sanitizing is a treatment that lessens and even kills germs on surfaces to make them safe for contact. The two most common sanitizer types are:

  1. Non-food contact sanitizer for treatment of non-food contact surfaces like floors, walls, railings. Sanitizing is best for when the need is for a less robust antibacterial treatment.
  2. Food Contact Sanitizer when you want to sanitize items that come into contact with food: countertops, dishes, glassware, countertops or utensils.   A food contact sanitizer is often the last step in a cleaning process for food contact items.

Disinfection requires a stronger treatment than a sanitizer.  A disinfectant must completely eliminate specific pathogen(s).   Both disinfecting and sanitizing are a step up from regular cleaning because cleaning only removes visible dirt. When you sanitize or disinfect, you are removing potentially harmful pathogens that might not be visible to the naked eye.  In order to have a product be classified and be able to be marketed as a sanitizer or disinfectant for hard surfaces they must be EPA Registered and must have data supporting the claims

Now knowing the difference among the various disinfectant types, you can raise the question when should you sanitize, and when should you disinfect?  The answer to this question will depend on your objective:  Do you have a specific pathogen(s) you want to target?  In these uncertain times; the Covid-19 virus is one of the most targeted of all pathogens.  You can check to determine if your disinfectant is capable of disinfecting Covid-19 by checking the EPA List N.  Disinfectants on this list satisfies the EPA requirements for disinfecting this viral pathogen. Beside Covid-19,  EPA has 14 other lists that might be useful in selecting the right product for your objective.  Overall, disinfecting can lower the risk of infections from other pathogens like influenza, HIV, Staph or Salmonella.  

Creating a clean, safe, and healthy environment requires discipline and the right set of products.  Clean is good but often you need to go beyond clean to create a hygienic environment by disinfecting or sanitizing your surroundings. 

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