Milking dairy cows is a major and vital activity on Rethel’s High School Farm. The herd includes 70 Prim’Holstein and Jersey dairy cows.
The milking parlour dates back from 1998. It’s equipped with 2 platforms each containing 6 milking stations to milk from behind.
When it comes to practical works, students and apprentices are supervised by farm workers and technical teachers.
 The first step consists in making the cows that remained in the cubicles get up and walk calmly to the milking parlour.
They are then gathered in the so-called waiting area before they get milked.
Between the stables and the milking parlour, the boot- washing operation is part of the essential measures to adopt in order to limit the introduction of germs into the milking parlour.

The milking pipeline is set up between the milking parlour and the milk tank. It has to be well-placed. The milk tank has a 6000-liter capacity and keeps milk at a temperature of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius.

Setting up a filter in the collecting system helps avoid the flow of germs into the milk tank.
It’s then time to start the milking machine to create an air gap inside the teat sleeves with the help of a vacuum pump. This pressure difference allows the teat sphincter to open and the milk to flow.
It is compulsory to wash your hands and wear gloves at this point in order to obtain a good bacteriological milk quality and to maintain good teat hygiene.

Cleaning and disinfecting the teats with a pre-foaming is an essential step that helps reduce the bacterial load before connecting the teat cups.
Obviously, the teats are cleaned with a single-use paper.
The pre-foaming and cleaning of the teats are two mechanical actions favoring the milk ejection reflex.
The teats are drawn by hand to get the first shot in order to encourage milk ejection and to detect possible mastitis. In this case, clots or lumps may be observed in the milk.
Cows wearing red bracelets on their back legs  have a health problem and this gives information about the different physiological stages and their state of health.
The connection of the cups to the teats is done starting with the least accessible teat. The tap of the claw is opened, we straighten the cup while breaking the hose to limit the aspiration of air and dirt. Then, we direct the teat towards the cup to connect the cup to the teat.
If the cow has a non-functional teat, we must clog the corresponding cup with an obturator.
Doing the milking with several people can save a few minutes as long as it’s well organized! Here the milking takes about 2 hours (it starts around 6:30 in the morning and around 4:30 in the afternoon).
Every milking station is equipped with a milk meter and with an automatic stall system which picks up the cups and draws the claw with a rope as soon as the milking is finished.
Today, the cow has produced 11.3 kilograms of milk.
A soaking solution is applied to the teats. This solution has several roles: it disinfects the teats, leaves a film that will have a "barrier effect" against bacteria, softens the skin and keeps flies away.
As soon as the 6 cows from the same platform have been milked, we open the barrier. The cows head back to the barn and six other cows come into the milking parlour.
The milk from this milking session is stored in a pot. Also, milk from a cow that has recently calved, from a cow with mastitis, or from a cow that has been treated with medication, must be stored aside.
We performed an intra-mammary injection to fight against mastitis.

Besides, regarding animal health, the farm staff try to use, when possible, alternative medicines such as homeopathy or aromatherapy. 
Sometimes, some cows can withhold milk. In that case, we can inject some ocytocine (a hormone naturally produced by cows) in order to trigger the ejection of milk or we can apply a homeopathical treatment such as Urtica Urens.
When cows urinate or defecate on the platform, we must clean it in order to prevent the milking station from being contaminated.
After milking the cows, work is not finished! We need to clean the milking parlour and launch the cleaning of the milking system.
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