This week parts of Ireland saw the first snow of winter and many dairy farmers may be wondering  if their milking systems are ready for the colder weather.

 The Department of Defence’s Be Winter Ready booklet has some good advice on preventing ice  forming on milking machines and what farmers should do long-term to prevent damage from  freezing weather.

 Daily maintenance

 Farmers are advised to complete the following checks when expecting cold weather:

  • Close doors to minimise heat loss between milkings.
  • Completely drain the milking machine. Complete drainage can be achieved by running the machine for longer when after final rinse, leaving machine open at the filter sock and opening drains at low points of the machine.
  • Circulate a saline solution after the final rinse as the salt will lower the freezing point of water. Care should be taken to rinse the machine before any subsequent milking.
  • Remove clusters from jet washers after cleaning and leave to hang freely.
  • If using a diaphragm pump in milking machine, consider opening lock nuts to drain it.

 Winter checks

There are some practical steps farmers can take in advance of spells of cold weather to prevent damage to milking machines.

Where needed, the following alterations can be carried out at this time of year.

  • Ensure that water supplying pipes are either buried or sufficiently insulated to prevent freezing.
  • Guard open parlour entrances, or poorly fitting doors, using temporary plastic sheeting.
  • Consider investing in a thermostatically controlled heater for the plant room which can be set to switch on at a given temperature.

Long-term planning

Meanwhile, farmers should keep Ireland’s changeable weather in mind when improving infrastructure on the farm.

This advice holds true for the milking system too, so farmers should think about long-term cold protection:

  • Aim to ensure milking machines are easy to drain when designing them.
  • Use infra-red lights at strategic points on all liquid lines of the system.

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