Attention Dairy Goat Producers Using Bucket Milking Machines

In Ontario approximately 13 % of Ontario's dairy goat producers are using bucket milking machines. Many producers also use bucket milkers to keep the milk from sick or treated animals out of the bulk tank. Keeping a bucket milking system (Figure 1) clean often requires more effort and attention to detail than pipeline systems. A thorough cleaning job can be time consuming. Shortcuts can often lead to unclean equipment. Let's look at some of the more common pitfalls of cleaning bucket milkers.

Picture of the bucket milking system for dairy goats.

Figure 1. Bucket Milking System


Hot detergent wash needs to stay above 120ºF. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Consistently low or borderline wash solution temperatures, cause fat and protein residues to develop. Many producers using bucket milkers obtain their hot water via heat transfer from a diesel engine used to power the bulk tank cooling unit. Since this system may not provide enough hot water, producers need to check the temperature of their wash solution at the end of the wash cycle, and consider options to provide additional milk house hot water if necessary.

Physical Action and Time

Cleaning the milking cluster, milk hoses and claws can be a challenge with bucket milkers. The problem usually is inadequate contact time with hot dairy detergent and inadequate slugging or turbulence of the dairy cleaners. Using the vacuum system and simply drawing wash solutions through the inflations, claws and milk hoses back into the bucket milker often does not provide adequate slugging or contact time. A contact or circulation time of six minutes is recommended. The trick is the process needs to be repeated. Briefly lifting the milking cluster out of the wash solution can assist in providing turbulence.

Manual brush cleaning of the bucket, bucket lid, gasket, and inlets as well as a pull-through brush cleaning of hoses is also required.

The key steps and factors involved in the cleaning process for hand milking, bucket milking or pipeline milking are basically the same.

Figure 2. The key steps and factors involved in the cleaning process for hand milking, bucket milking or pipeline milking are basically the same.

1. Pre-Rinse

Removes most milk soil. Immediately after each milking, rinse each milker unit by drawing about 1 gallon of tepid water (100 - 120ºF) through the teat cup assembly. During rinsing, the teatcup assembly should be raised out of the water and lowered back in, to increase turbulence and scrubbing action.

2. Hot Wash

A hot wash using chlorinated alkaline cleaner removes fat and protein. Wash water needs to stay above 120ºF. This means you'll probably need to wear gloves for manual cleaning of buckets, milking units, and strainer to avoid scalding hands.

3. Acid Rinse

Removes residual detergent and prevents milkstone buildup. The acid rinse leaves surfaces with an acidic pH environment which discourages bacteria growth. An acid rinse also helps prevent black rubber from inking. After rinsing, equipment needs to drain dry. Store strainers and buckets inverted on a rack and hang units and hoses to drain.

Some producers flood or soak all equipment in an acid solution for an extended period of time once a week. This also helps prevent milkstone residues; however this practice should not replace routine daily acid rinsing

4. Sanitize

Immediately before milking, sanitize with 200 ppm chlorine. Most dairy chlorine sanitizers use 1/3 oz sanitizer per gallon potable water to make up a 200 ppm solution. Remember that an unclean surface will not be effectively sanitized.

Cluster Cleaning Units

Some producers have a cluster cleaning unit which provides excellent circulation cleaning of milk tubes, claws, and inflations. My experience has been that these units work well and save time since multiple units can be washed at the same time. For a cluster cleaner unit to work effectively proper cleaning steps and factors need to be observed as outlined in Figure 2.

Many dairy equipment dealers do not routinely stock these units, however they can be ordered. Prices generally range from $200.00 to $300.00.

Below are pictures and descriptions of some of the available cluster cleaning units.

DeLaval WA3 Unit (Figure 3) - Built to be efficient

The WA3 is a cleaning tool for bucket milking systems which helps ensure the milking cluster's internal parts are thoroughly cleaned. Its automatic function also saves time for other farm tasks.

The WA3 is driven by the vacuum supply system. The unit handles up to three clusters simultaneously and requires minimal space in the milk room. Simple but clever design makes the WA3 very robust and easy to maintain.

DeLaval WA3

Figure 3. DeLaval WA3

Clear Bucket Milker Washer Unit (Figure 4)

The Clear Bucket Milker Washer is made of rugged molded plastic and stainless steel and saves labour, time and water by automatically washing up to four milker units at once. Milk tubes, claw and inflations are cleaned simultaneously, eliminating tedious brush cleaning. Clear body allows viewing of the washing process and insures light weight for economy and ease of mounting. Brackets included.

Clear Bucket Milker Washer Unit

Figure 4. Clear Bucket Milker Washer Unit

Keep the Vacuum Line Clean

Some instances of high bacteria counts are caused by dirty vacuum lines and hoses. Condensation, milk droplets, and airborne contaminants are frequently drawn into the vacuum line and, can eventually accumulate into sludge.

To clean the vacuum line:

  1. Prepare a hot wash solution (chlorinated alkaline low foaming pipeline cleaner) as directed on label.
  2. Start with the stall cock nearest the vacuum pump. Draw a measured amount (less than the moisture trap will hold) then progressively clean each section of the vacuum line. When sucking the solution into the vacuum line, allow air to be drawn in at the same time by withdrawing the tube from the wash solution at frequent intervals. This will improve scrubbing action.
  3. Shut off the vacuum pump and drain the system as necessary to empty the vacuum tank and lines. Check effectiveness by progressively examining at the clean out plugs. Make sure drain valves do not become fouled.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 using an acidified rinse following label directions.
  5. Remove drain plugs to be sure the entire system is drained.

Review your vacuum line installation to ensure all lines are sloped to drain. Also, all low spots should have automatic drain valves and cleanout plugs. Stall cocks should be located in the top portion of the line.

Keep Vacuum Hoses Clean

Vacuum hoses require regular cleaning with a pull-through brush (Figure 5). If your brush is in poor condition or you do not have one, contact your equipment dealer.

Vacuum hoses shown with a pull-through brush.

Figure 5. Vacuum hoses shown with a pull-through brush.

Check valves prevent moisture or any contaminating substance from the vacuum system from contacting the milk. These valves need to be in good repair and seated properly to be effective.

Pulsators are another part of the vacuum system that require regular attention. A pulsator performs millions of operations a year and is therefore subject to considerable wear. Pulsator maintenance and cleaning varies depending on type (electronic, electro-pneumatic and pneumatic) and therefore specific manufacturer instructions should be followed. Filters, air inlet ports and, in the case of pneumatic pulsators, the valve and valve slides require cleaning to optimize their performance.

Bucket milker systems continue to be a viable option for many dairy goat producers. A well maintained system and a consistent sanitation routine go a long way towards producing quality milk.

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