Ensuring correct cluster alignment is an essential part of the milk harvesting process. The aim is for the milking unit to hang squarely on the udder with equal weight distribution between all four teats, on all cows at all times.
When clusters are correctly positioned on the udder liner slip is minimised and milk flow rates and therefore milking out times are optimal. However, poor cluster alignment is an important contributory factor in the cause of mastitis
Poor cluster position will lead to un-even, slower milking as well as an increased incidence of liner slip. Because the ACR operates on the combined flow rate from all four quarters, if one quarter is not fully milked out before the cluster is removed, over time the quarter will regress and become ‘light’.
It is more difficult to milk an un-even udder without liner slip and therefore the risk of new infections increases.
Correct design and installation of a milking parlour should result in good cluster position on the majority of cows in the herd.
Good cluster position can be achieved, in most circumstances, by:
- Ensuring that the long milk and long pulse tubes are the correct length so that they do not pull or twist the cluster when attached on the udder.
- Using swing arms in 1 unit: 2 stall (swing over) parlours to support the weight of the tubing. The arms should point down the spine of the cows’ backs, which will help minimise twisting of the cluster on the cow to the right or the left.
- Correctly adjusting the tubing when attaching clusters to cows so that the unit is not pulling.
- Ensuring that the cluster assembly itself is not twisted, e.g. short pulse tubes incorrectly aligned distort positioning of the teat cups, and twisted long milk and pulse tubes pull the cluster to one side.
- Providing supports for the long milk tubes, either on the kerb of the cow standing or by hooks off the rump rails. These supports hold the tubing in the correct position so that they do not twist or drag after the unit has been correctly attached.
- Installing dedicated cluster support arms, if necessary.
Achieving good cluster position requires the milker to make an effort to position the cluster correctly when attaching units, and to react quickly when clusters become poorly aligned, for whatever reason.
Good cluster position is therefore an important element of the milk harvesting process, minimising mastitis, poor udder conformation and benefiting milk flow rates and unit on time.