Best Practice: Care of Milking Equipment

1. Develop and follow a preventive maintenance schedule for milking equipment.

Just like a car or tractor, milking equipment needs regular maintenance and replacement of parts that experience wear and tear. Failure to properly maintain milking equipment can lead to cow comfort and udder health issues, including increased clinical mastitis and SCC, improper cleaning and high bacteria counts, as well as parlor inefficiency. Dairies that milk round-the-clock must pay even more attention to preventive maintenance, as unscheduled down time for repairs can be particularly costly.


Whether a dairy contracts out for equipment service or has dairy staff perform regular maintenance, it’s critical that an owner or manager take responsibility for ensuring that important tasks get accomplished on schedule. Too often, without a schedule and check system, things get pushed aside until what could have been a simple preventive measure becomes a costly repair.  Tasks can be spread out over the year, which helps with budgeting and reduces parlor down time. Work with your equipment dealer to make sure all necessary items are included in the schedule according to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance interval. Some examples of the most common preventive maintenance items include:


Replacement of Rubber Goods

     ♦ There are many liners on the market, and all have a definite lifespan for optimal performance. Replace liners according the manufacturer recommendations.

     ♦ Milk hoses should be replaced at least every 6 months.

     ♦ Pulsation hoses, wash hoses, milkline and other gaskets should be replaced at least yearly.


Milking Claws

     ♦ Regularly check for cracks and buildup of milk film on internal surfaces. If vented, check that vents are open and use the right size tool to open plugged vents.

     ♦ Claw gaskets should be replaced at least every 6 months.



     ♦ Pulsators should be rebuilt according to the recommended interval (depending on manufacturer, may be every 1500-3000 milking hours). If not following manufacturer recommendations, rebuild at least 1-2 times per year.


Filters & Drains

     ♦ Check and clean or replace filters on airlines, regulators and pulsators regularly.

     ♦ Airlines should have drains installed at low points and vertical elbows. Check and clean drains (and airlines) regularly to prevent leaks and bacterial growth.


Routine Assessment of Cleaning System

     ♦ Don’t forget air injectors, chemical pumps, mechanical valves and rubber goods associated with the cleaning system.


Pump Maintenance

     ♦ Vacuum and milk pumps need regular service to maintain capacity and prevent failure. 

2. Monitor vacuum level and pulsation regularly to ensure proper function.

Vacuum level should be recorded at the beginning of each milking shift. Vacuum gauges that are permanently mounted in the system may become inaccurate over time, so it is best to use a portable vacuum gauge to check the vacuum level. Making a regular vacuum check part of the milking routine ensures early detection of problems with the Variable Speed Drive controller or regulator, or accidental changes to the vacuum setting that can seriously affect cow comfort and teat health. 


Every pulsator should be checked by a professional or trained dairy worker on a regular interval, as determined by the dairy (recommend every 1-2 months). If many pulsators are found to be outside tolerance ranges on test day, the testing interval should be shortened. The lead milker should also check pulsators by listening or feeling for functional pulsation at the beginning of each shift. 


Vacuum Log

Vacuum Log.docx

Additional Resources

UMN Dairy Extension, Milk Quality & Mastitis

UW Milk Quality

NMC Recommended Mastitis Control Program (checklist)

UMN Laboratory for Udder Health (mastitis testing and information)