MILKING machines are used more than most other pieces of equipment on the dairy farm and yet their function, maintenance and potential contribution to mastitis incidents are poorly understood by many farmers. As a result, they are often neglected, despite the fact that they are responsible for generating the majority of a dairy farmer's income. It is important that veterinary surgeons involved in mastitis investigation have at least a basic understanding of the milking machine and its influence on levels of mastitis and thereby Bactoscan results or total bacterial counts (TBCs). It is very useful to be able to pinpoint possible problem areas so that the machine can either be included or excluded as a contributory factor. This article summarises the principles of machine milking and discusses the various ways in which the machine can increase the likelihood of mastitis. Some basic investigation methods and tests to check milking machine function are also described.
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