Keep It Clean! Milking Sanitation 101
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By David & Marsha Coakley
When we were researching how to start a goat dairy in mid-2015, I ran across a saying at microdairydesigns.com. It read: “To have a successful dairy, you need to do one of these three things: 1. Love to clean, 2. Clean because you have to, or 3. Know someone who loves to clean.” Sanitation is one of the most critical parts of dairy ownership that is often overlooked or done incorrectly. Whether you’re bucket milking for personal consumption or using a machine for either herd shares or commercial use, the sanitation process must be spot-on.
Where do I get information?
The best place to start is the USDA “Pasteurized Milk Ordinance,” or PMO, which can be found at fda.gov/media/99451/download. Whether pasteurizing your milk or not, the PMO contains a wealth of useful information to guide you through the sanitation process. Keep in mind that the PMO is a Federal Regulation that must be adhered to regardless of state. However, just to complicate matters, your state may have supplementary measures that are required. Also, if your state allows raw milk sales, there will be further regulations for unpasteurized processing. Your best option is to contact your state Department of Agriculture for specific guidance.
A great additional source of information is The Dairy Practices Council at www.dairypc.org. Much of the information in the PMO is based on The Dairy Council guidelines. The Council has useful information for parlor and milk room construction, equipment cleaning, and milk testing to help you manage your dairy.
Herd Shares are becoming an increasingly popular method to bypass state licensure to be able to distribute goat milk for human consumption. While the benefits can be favorable, the liabilities can be devastating if proper sanitation is not followed. If you’re offering herd shares, it is absolutely critical that you get as close to the USDA standard as possible. If a shareholder drinking your milk were to get sick, the USDA will investigate with the PMO used as a guideline during the inspection. The further you are from the standard, the greater the potential that you could be held liable for damages from your dairy.
We’ll talk a lot about water temperature during the steps. Achieving the water temperature is important, but maintaining it is equally necessary. We use hot water that is approximately 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Because we use a claw washer with a cycle that is 10 minutes long, the water cools quickly. 120 degrees F is the lowest temperature that kills bacteria, so the temperature must be no less than 120 degrees F at the end of the wash cycle. If you’re not using a claw washer and just washing in the sink, you still need to ensure your water is a minimum of 120-125 degrees F while the equipment is being washed.
For sufficient cleaning, it is essential to use brushes, not rags. Cloth quickly becomes contaminated and is difficult to disinfect, plus it must be washed after each use. You will want a high-quality brush, preferably for dairy use, to be used ONLY for washing equipment.
I wouldn’t be a good safety manager if I didn’t mention some vital personal protective equipment. Keep in mind you will be using a commercial chlorinated cleaner, acid, and extremely hot water. A pair of heavy-duty latex or vinyl gloves will protect your hands from the hot water and chemicals during the wash and rinse. Safety glasses are also a good idea for preventing acid or cleaners from splashing in your eyes.
Cleaning Products and Sanitation of Equipment. (Prior to milking)
We will start as if we are coming into the milk room to begin the milking cycle. The equipment sanitization is completed immediately PRIOR to milking and all the washing is done immediately AFTER milking. For the purposes of the article, we’ll discuss the products approved by the USDA. We purchase ours from a local dairy supply house; however, many agricultural stores such as Tractor Supply sell cleaning chemicals. Be sure to check with your local stores for availability.
Sanitizing is the first step of getting ready for milking. We use Boumatic Chlor 125 sanitizer and lukewarm water (110 degrees F) in our claw washer to clean our Hoegger milker, but these steps still apply for hand milking. We cycle (soak) the equipment in the solution and run it through the equipment for two minutes per the instruction label. Note: If you’re running any sort of milk machine, the claw washer is a critical piece of equipment. Without it, it’s impossible to get the cleaning/sanitation cycles done correctly. Some equipment manufacturers suggest just running some bleach through the lines; however, this is not effective because the solution must have contact with all parts during the entire process. Do not rinse when complete (per the PMO) as the equipment could become re-contaminated during rinsing. Once your equipment is sanitized, you may confidently milk your does knowing everything is clean.
Prewash Cycle (After Milking)
After the milking is complete, we rinse everything out in the sink with lukewarm water (110°F) to remove the residual milk. Do NOT rinse in hot water as it can cause the milk stone (milk residue) to set into the hoses or other plastic and rubber pieces which can allow bacteria growth and an “off taste” in the milk. Using the claw washer for rinsing could potentially contaminate it with milk, so it is not recommended.
Our wash cycle is completed in two steps. First, all components are submerged into a sink full of hot water (about 155 degrees F) with a chlorinated powdered foaming cleaner (Ecolab HC-10). Next, the hoses and inflations are brush washed off and put into a food-safe five-gallon bucket of hot (155 degrees F) water and attached to the claw washer. The claw washer uses a chlorinated non-foaming cleaner (Boumatic Maxi-Guard) and is operated for 10 minutes. The remaining equipment, still in the sink, gets brush washed in the foaming cleaner and rinsed (lukewarm water) in the sink.
After washing and rinsing, I fill my milk buckets up with an acid/water solution (Ecolab PL-10 and lukewarm water), per product instructions. Then all equipment is placed inside to soak as the claw washer completes its wash cycle. This is important as the acid releases and prevents milk stone (milk residue) build up in your lines and on your equipment. Once the claw wash cycle is complete, the acid solution is dumped from the stainless milk buckets into the five-gallon bucket. Finally, run the acid solution through the claw washer for two minutes.
Some acid washes require a final rinse after using them, others don’t. Make sure to follow manufacturer instructions.
Hang to Dry
All equipment needs to be hung or placed to allow it to self-drain in the milk room. The milk room needs to be closed off from the rest of the barn for sanitation reasons. Milk room guidelines, however, are a different article.
Hopefully, this article gives you some useful information about cleaning equipment. The steps can initially appear to be daunting, but with education and a little practice, it doesn’t take long to produce safer, higher quality milk.
David & Marsha Coakley own Frog Pond Farm & Dairy in Canfield, Ohio, which is a state-inspected dairy. They currently have 16 American and French Alpines that are milked for their artisan soap business and also for herd shares. They will be adding Grade A milk and cheese to their product line in mid-2020. Dave works off the farm as a Corporate Health and Safety (Occupational and Food) Manager for a large regional bakery in northeast Ohio. He is a retired Air Force veteran. You can follow them on Facebook @frogpondfarmanddairy or online at www.frogpondfarm.us.
Originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.