5 Guidelines for Winter Teat Health

The change in weather means it's time to start thinking more about teat health. Taking the time to plan ahead will help prevent costly mastitis infections when severe weather arrives.

1. PLAN FOR IT. Take time to re-evaluate your teat dips. Post-dipping is equally important in the winter months as it is in the summer to prevent mastitis. Using a post-dip with increased levels of emollients is crucial to protect, heal and soften skin during the transition to colder weather and in harsh winter conditions. During extremely cold weather, use a proven winter teat dip to protect teats. The use of an exfoliant teat dip may be necessary when transitioning into and out of winter.

2. MAINTAIN A LOG. Maintaining a log of teat health conditions year-round will help keep teat health in check. This information is beneficial in evaluating your program to keep teats healthy in all conditions.

3. REVIEW YOUR MILKING PROCEDURE AND EQUIPMENT SETTINGS. Make sure all steps in your milking procedure are being followed. Your milking procedure should allow for proper stimulation, milk letdown time (90-120 seconds), applying pressure against the teat end when wiping, proper unit attachment and alignment. Make sure your maintenance service is on schedule, and your system is set at the optimal pulsation, automatic take-off and vacuum settings for your herd. This will help ensure you are harvesting high-quality milk quickly and safely.

4. EDUCATE YOUR MILKERS. It's important that your milkers are educated on the challenges associated with winter weather's effect on teat tissue. Rough teat ends (hyperkeratosis) are more difficult to get clean. Milkers need to wipe teats in a downward, twisting motion on each teat, working from the farthest to the nearest. It's important they also make a second wipe, applying pressure across teat ends to help remove excess keratin buildup that is ready to come off, and properly clean teat ends. Milkers should closely inspect teat ends to make sure they are clean before attaching the unit. Instill a "rub, no pick" policy when cleaning teat ends.

5. OPTIMIZE THE HOUSING ENVIRONMENT. During colder weather, it becomes even more important to adjust cows" housing environment to make sure they have plenty of dry, clean bedding. This might mean using more bedding, and bedding more frequently. When using recycled bedding, this may include buying some new bedding, especially for fresh cows and heifers with edema. Providing wind blocks and keeping cows protected from harsh weather as much as possible are crucial. Monitor wind speed and the temperature in your barns. These factors are especially important in regards to fresh cow teat health, as these cows have less blood flow to the udder and swelling.

Reviewing these five guidelines will help you ensure healthy teats in winter weather. Healthy teats help minimize the chance for bacteria to infect the udder, reducing potential mastitis incidences.

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