Bulk tank milk samples can help you monitor the effectiveness of your pre-milking teat prep.

How good is your pre-milking teat prep?Since most environmental mastitis pathogens found in bulk milk generally do not come from infected mammary glands, but rather from the teat surface, it is reasoned that whatever environmental bacteria (coliforms and non-ag streps) not removed from teat surfaces during pre-milking teat prep will then end up in the bulk tank milk, points out Jeff Reneau, extension veterinarian at the University of Minnesota.

If the numbers of coliforms and non-ag strep bacteria on your bulk tank culture results are high, you are not getting teat surfaces clean enough, he adds.

Take-home message: There are normally many undesirable organisms in the cow’s every day environment, which can easily contaminate cow’s teats. Keeping cows clean and dry by attentive stall and alley management is needed. Research has repeatedly shown that the number of bacteria in bedding materials is positively correlated to the number of these bacteria on teat surfaces. Likewise, the greater numbers of bacteria on teat surfaces, the greater the risk of mastitis infections.

For more information, go to: http://www.extension.umn.edu/dairy, click on “Milk quality and mastitis,” and then click on “New! Quality Count$ 2012.”