Save time, increase cow comfort, reduce risk of mastitis

CANTON, NY – How does a reduction of 27 seconds add up to a gain of an important 15 minutes and more comfortable dairy cows?

Research funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and conducted by Quality Milk Production Services and Cornell Cooperative Extension showed nearly two dozen dairy farms just how.

Paul D. Virkler, D.V.M., a veterinarian with the Quality Milk Production Services Animal Health Diagnostic Center in Canton, NY, led the project that influenced a simple but significant change in the milking parlor settings on 23 farms milking cows two to three times a day in Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

The project demonstrated how adjusting the setting on the automatic cluster remover (ACR) unit that controls when the milking unit detaches from the cow based on a decrease in milk flow reduces milking time with benefits to the farmer, the cows and the farm business.

“In general terms, reducing the milking time per cow by 27 seconds adds up to a gain of 15.8 minutes per milking shift. That 15 minutes could allow a producer to milk an extra turn of cows at each shift with no additional labor cost and no detrimental effects on milk production,” said Virkler.

From the cow’s perspective, taking the milking unit off more quickly by adjusting the ACR alleviates the potential of overmilking and related impact on teat tissue condition, thus making the cow more comfortable, reducing the risk of mastitis and enhancing animal well-being.

For the farm business, Virkler noted that “although milking time is significantly shorter, earlier research, and this trial, has shown there is no negative effect on or loss of milk yield.”

Following the main trial at Hillcrest Holsteins in Henderson, NY, the project team extended the research results to 22 additional farms, with a change in the ACR setting recommended to 20 of those farms. All 20 farms made the change with positive results.

“This research offered the opportunity to demonstrate a simple milking parlor adjustment that can be made to enhance how quickly, completely and gently milking can be accomplished,” Virkler said. “The farmers we worked with are now aware of this easy way to add to their best management practices.”

The complete report on Assessing Automatic Cluster Remover Settings on Milking Unit-Time, Total Milk Yield and Teat Condition in Northern New York Dairy Herds is posted under the Dairy Research tab of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Quality Milk Production Services operates four regional diagnostic laboratories in New York State, including one in Northern New York at Canton, and is a part of the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.