How to ensure your milking machine doesn't freeze
Freezing weather conditions affects farming in several ways and while the more significant effects are the provision of feed and water to livestock, the freezing of water pipes to sheds and outdoor water troughs and the freezing of milking machines and other equipment in milking parlours is a big threat on dairy farms.
Teagasc has issued key advice on how to reduce the risk of ice forming in milking machines:
- Make sure that all doors into the parlour are kept closed.
- Install a thermostatically-controlled heater in the plant room which should cut in when the temperature falls to 10C. Items such as the power washer should be kept in the plant room to prevent the pump from freezing.
- Let the machine run a little bit longer to ensure that all excess water is removed from the plant after the final rinse. Open the machine at the low points, particularly at the fitter sock. Some machines may also have a drain at the base of the receiver jar.
- Remove the jetters from the claw pieces and let them hang down.
- Circulate a saline solution through the milking machine, having first made sure that all the detergent has been rinsed out of the plant. The saline (salt) solution is made by mixing half a kg of salt in 5 gallons of water. Salt will drop the freezing point of water. Rinse before milking to remove salt traces. If the rinse is inclined to freeze, start milking without rinsing and let the first few gallons go to waste or feed to calves.
- Diaphragm milk pumps can also cause problems. Open the locking nuts to allow any excess water to escape or alternatively place an infra-red light over it.
- Longer-term solution: Install a line of infra-red lights above the milk and wash lines. All wiring should be done by a certified electrician.
- Close off the entrance to the parlour with plastic sheeting or insulating blanket to reduce the amount of freezing air getting in and to keep as much heat as possible inside.
- The machine should be designed in such a way that it drains easily.
Frozen Water Pipes
Where there is an on-farm supply from a deep well, the deep submersible pump should not freeze but pipes and fittings from the pump to the pressure vessel (tank) and from there to the sheds need to be kept free of ice.
Have a thermostatically controlled fan heater in the pump-house.
Water pipes to the shed should be underground and any exposed pipes should be insulated.
In very low temperatures, pipes have frozen at the entrance to the shed and inside the shed in the supply to the troughs. In such situations, even when thawed out they are likely to freeze again. The supply pipe to the troughs could be extended on further out of the house to a tap. This tap can be left to run at a low rate to keep water flowing where there is an on-farm supply source. This option cannot be used if the water is supplied by the Local Authority or Group Scheme.
It may be necessary to bring in an alternative supply to fill water troughs or other containers in the feed passage. It may be possible to tap into the underground supply outside the shed and attach a hose to fill these water containers.