Effect of cleaning procedure and hygienic condition of milking equipment on bacterial count of bulk tank milk.
ABSTRACT The aim of the study was to describe the characteristics of cleaning procedures for milking equipment applied in intensive dairy farms in Lombardy (Italy) and to study their relationships with bacterial count of bulk milk and hygienic condition of milking machine components. A group of 22 dairy farms was visited twice (winter and summer) in order to collect bulk tank milk and post-rinse water samples and swabs from liners and milk receiver. Samples were analysed to determine: standard plate count (SPC), laboratory pasteurization count (LPC), psychrotrophic bacteria count (PBC), coliform count (CC) and Escherichia coli. Cleaning procedures were monitored using electronic milk flow meters with specific software for the measurement of the duration of each cleaning phase, circulating solution temperature and electrical conductivity, turbulence and water filling percentage of pipelines. The results showed that farms classified as high and low milk total bacteria count significantly differed both in terms of liners and receiver bacterial contamination and in terms of water temperature reached during the detergent phase of cleaning milking equipment. Significant positive correlations were found among total bacteria count in milk and bacterial contamination of the liners. Maximum water temperature reached during the cleaning cycle of milking equipment was very low (34·4±8·9°C on average); most of the observations (88·6%) corresponded to water temperatures <45°C. Cleaning temperature was related to psychrotrophic bacteria count of milk and post-rinse water and coliform count in liners. Routine check and regulation of water temperature during the washing phase of the milking machine can be a simple and effective way to control one of the main risk factors for bacteriological quality of bulk tank milk.