Q. Part of our milking routine includes forestripping. This seems to slow down the milking process. Why should we bother to forestrip? NMC responds: Forestripping is one of the most important steps in the milking routine. And although forestripping is physically tiring and is often perceived as time-consuming, it is well worth the effort and can actually help shorten milking time and improve milk quality.

Forestripping is the process by which the first three to five streams of milk are expressed from each teat prior to milking. Traditionally, foremilk has been observed by using a special “strip” cup or black plate. This procedure may be used when cows are milked in stanchions or tiestalls. However, in milking parlors, where floors are readily flushed with water, the foremilk can be observed on the floor or the drain under the cows, provided care is taken to prevent splashing milk onto cows’ feet, legs and udders. Milk should never be stripped into a milker’s hand because of a high risk of spreading mastitis from cow to cow. In stall or tiestall barns, milk should never be stripped into the cow beds as it can contaminate the bedding with mastitis-causing bacteria.

Important functions of forestripping in regard to milk quality and udder health include:

  • Checks for abnormal teats or udders
  • Checks for abnormal milk and signs of mastitis (such as flakes, clots, stringiness, discoloration, watery secretions)
  • Identifies cows needing attention
  • Removes high bacteria count and high somatic cell count milk from the teat canal

Cows found with abnormal milk or udder problems should be recorded and identified for examination. Early detection of mastitis is important to reduce the spread of mastitis in a herd and can also improve treatment success. To ensure shipment of high-quality milk, abnormal milk should not be put in the bulk tank.

Forestripping can also improve overall milking performance or cows milked per hour by:

  • Ensuring that the teat canal is open for free flow of milk
  • Stimulating good milk letdown

Research conducted over the last 30 years has shown that a proper pre-milking routine can reduce milking unit attachment time and increase milk flow rate. A recent study conducted in herds milking three times a day showed that cows that were forestripped tended to have shorter machine on-time compared to those that were not forestripped.

Another question that is often asked is when forestripping should be done – before or after disinfecting the teats? There is no research that indicates that the order will affect milk quality. However, on a practical basis, it may be best to forestrip before disinfecting the teats to reduce the chance of re-contaminating the teat skin before the milking unit is attached.

Although forestripping adds time to udder preparation, it can help decrease overall milking time. It is also an effective procedure to ensure milk quality, improve udder health and increase profitability of the dairy. It is one step in the milking process that should not be skipped. PD

Answers provided by NMC.