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SOPs for Milking

Example SOPs for Milking are available here

Standard Operating Procedures for Milking

Francis Quigley explains the importance of having SOPs for milking in place


Many dairy farmers, particularly those using relief milkers write down instructions on how tasks should be done. Farmers who don’t have staff or students might feel they don’t need any instructions. What would happen if a farmer, family member or usual relief milker was unable to undertake standard tasks such as milking. Illness, accidents and situations such as the Covid-19 virus might plunge a farm into an unforeseen situation. It is important to put in place a backup system with a friend or neighbour that might be able to help. The best way to ensure the work is carried out properly is to have standard operating procedures (SOPs).   

It is important to understand that if your situation changes it will probably happen very quickly and you will not have much time to put plans in place last minute. This coupled with the stress of such a situation will more than likely mean that you will miss out or give poor direction on key tasks. You may also have to give instruction over the phone rather than face to face.

SOP is a document consisting of step by step instructions on how to complete a particular job or procedure on the farm. 


To make the handover as easy and smooth as possible it is highly recommended to put together a number of SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) in place. This is simply a list of steps/jobs which need to be done, in a clear and orderly list. It might be simply quantities of feed etc that various animals groups are getting and the numbers of times per day they are feed, once or twice.

If your cows are being fed with a diet feeder, write out your diet on a sheet. If you have a different diet for different groups make sure that each menu is written out individually and identify which shed is getting which mix. How are calves fed; are they getting milk powder or whole milk, what volume of feed is each groups of calves getting?

Milking Parlour

A more complex area is going to be the milking parlour. Milking machines have become a lot more complex and the control boxes for the various machines are very different. This is particularly the case with newer machines. The various controls on your Dairy master parlour is going to be very different to the controls on your neighbours Pearson machine, even if you and your neighbour both have a Delaval parlour he may have very different controls to your machine. The location of isolation switches, water heater controls, taps etc. will all be different in each parlour. The washing procedure that you are using, particularly if you have moved to a chlorine free wash, will most likely be different to your neighbours.

This is where an SOP will be very important to make the task for someone who is coming in to help out will be very important. Write out a step by step guide for the various tasks this should include items such as:

  • Setting up machine for milking
  • Setting up machine for washing, and daily wash procedure
  • Turing on the milk tank after a wash
  • Washing the milk tank after a collection    

If you take some photos of key items around the parlour, such as control boxes, and have them on the phone these might be useful if someone is ringing you for directions. Most farmers will be easily able to explain what buttons to press if they are looking at the box, but you would be surprised how hard it would be to recall which button is where if doing it from memory. You could also make notes on a photo and send them a message through whatsapp or similar if you have the image to work with. Also if items in the parlour are labelled with a laminate sheet then it might be easier to direct people.

Make sure that controls switches are clearly marked, use a permanent marker and write on the switch what it controls, “water heater”, “auger”, “Air compressor” etc.

Caption - Your control units could be very different to your neighbours. Even if you have a photo of the control unit on your phone it might be easier to give someone directions on how to operate it over the phone.

Video Guide

It might be also worth asking a family member to record a short video of the steps to set the parlour up for milking, or washing. People might find this easier to do rather than writing everything out. The video can then be shared with whoever needs it. Go out 10mins early today and ask someone to follow you around with a phone and record you as you carryout the procedure to setup the parlour, make sure that your hands can be clearly seen in the video.

Do the same when milking has finished, you will need to take it a little slower than usual so that people can follow what you are doing.

Clearly mark all drums in the parlour so that don’t get mixed up. You don’t want someone accidently using acid in the teat sprayers, this has happened in the past and caused a lot of damage to cows teat.

Caption - Bear in mind that although you are very used to operating your milking parlour, someone coming in to help out over the coming weeks might not find it that easy to figure out. Modern parlours are complex pieces of equipment with a lot of controls. Wash procedures have become a lot more complex.

Milking Routine SOP

  1. Wet down area
  2. Monitor white board for any changes and or updates.
  3. Take extra care regarding painted cows.
  4. Wear gloves and stay clean throughout milking.
  5. Feed the required amount to the herd.
  6. Pre spray all cows (allow spray work for 30 seconds).
  7. Strip all cows in the am (any red or blue cow stripped disinfect your hands afterwards).
  8. Do not strip orange cows blank quarters.
  9. Wipe quarters of all cows using paper towel (use new paper after wiping blue or red cows)
  10. Dump antibiotic or waste milk.
  11. Sterilise clusters that had a red or blue cow milked. Wash liners with water hose and spray teat spray up afterwards.
  12. Post spray all cows.
  13. Treat any cows if needed, spray cow and update the whiteboard.
  14. Clean equipment and yards thoroughly.

Manufacturer SOPs for Milking Parlour

Francis Quigley, March 2020