THE LINER SHIELD
Much of the mastitis research in the last fifty years has been directed toward trying to understand the role of the milking machine in the causation of this disease. Out of this work has emerged three main mechanisms of infection that are machine associated. These three mechanisms are: 1) Transfer of contagious organisms on milk contact surfaces from one cow to the next. 2) Damage to teat end health and 3) Teat end impacts with bacteria laden milk droplets due to pressure fronts or vacuum fluctuation in the unit. This discussion concerns itself with role of the liner shield in protecting the teat from the consequences of vacuum fluctuation.
Vacuum fluctuation has been analyzed to be composed of two principle components: cyclic and irregular fluctuations. Cyclic vacuum fluctuations are due to the movement of the liner wall in the normal pulsation cycle and therefore cannot be completely eliminated in the conventional milking machine. Use of larger capacity claws, alternating pulsation, claw venting, larger capacity claws stem and long milk tube drainage are all design elements that have reduced the magnitude of cyclic fluctuations.
Irregular vacuum fluctuations are caused by unplanned events such as pipeline flooding, a malfunctioning vacuum controller, a milking unit fall off, liner slipping, and removal of inflations without first shutting off vacuum to the claw. System design changes (adequately sized pipelines and vacuum pumps), attention to vacuum controller function (controller design sophistication and maintenance), as well as emphasis on improved milker technique, all have helped reduce irregular vacuum fluctuation. Liner slipping is now probably the most common source of problems in this area even on newer installations.
The relative importance of teat end impacts under commercial conditions in the U.S. is not known, but it is reasonable to assume that its relative importance as compared to other mechanisms for causation of mastitis varies form farm to farm. In field studies in Australia and England there was a 10% to 50% reduction in the new infection rate in commercial herds depending on the quality of the installation. Currently there are no means by which one can determine that benefit of shielding the liners on any particular herd, other than to put them in and measure the reduction in the new infection rate.
One final side benefit of the shield that many users of backflush can appreciate is the solution to the problem of the "pipe-streaming" effect. Many people using black rubber liners have not seen this phenomenon but it is quite apparent in the clear funnel bottom liners. When back flushing the unit, sometimes the sanitizing solution enters the bottom of the funnel and pipe-streams part way down the liner before the solution hits the liner wall. At the mouthpart of liner it looks like the solution is coming out on all surfaces, but the base of the liner may not have been touched. The shield can improve the effectiveness of the backflushing procedure by directing the sanitizer toward the liner wall starting right at the base of the liner.
The liner shield is a clear molded device made of FDA milk contact approved polysulfone. It easily inserts into the funnel portion of the Silicone Plastics SP-6000. This device was designed to redirect air movement through the funnel, without restricting the flow of milk toward the claw. The proper installation position for the shield is with the elevated dome portion pointing up toward the teat.
In the SP-6000, the shield is free to move about inside the funnel cavity and indeed observing the movement of the shield under milking condition gives dramatic testimony both to the profound forces in the liner chamber and hence the need for the shield itself. The free movement of the shield causes no adverse effects and allows movement of milk around its edge during milking and of wash water during washing. Problems with washing have not been observed nor are they expected. Occasionally the shield may come to rest on a slant within the funnel. This does not result in any impairment of function provided the funnel is fully seated on the liner cartridge and the shield is in the proper upright position. The shield can easily return to its horizontal position when this happens. There is sufficient clearance between the edge of the shield and the funnel wall so that even if the shield has settled in front of the funnel air vent hole, it will not result in obstruction of the liner vent.
When the milk is exiting the teat it may hit the dome portion of the shield and be directed toward the funnel wall above the shield. Some of this milk will pass by the edge of the shield and run evenly down the funnel wall below the shield. This can result in a sort of a "white out" effect on the funnel wall that may be confused with liner flooding. Liner flooding is a very common event in unvented liners but will only occur in a vented liner if due to a plugged air vent. It is easy for experienced SP-6000 users to appreciate the difference in appearance between the "white out" effect due to the shield doing its "redirection" function and the "flooding" of the liner chamber due to a plugged air vent. When on e observes the shield "floating" up and down with each pulsation cycle one can assume that the liner is indeed flooded and the vent needs clearing.
Liner shielding is a simple, permanent and inexpensive design change that greatly improves the safety of the milking machine, and all producers should seriously consider taking advantage of this important tool in mastitis prevention.