Gloves: Are You Protecting Your Herd?

John Mueller Dairy in New York ( Brody Wheeler )

Weekly we receive calls from producers that are experiencing milk quality issues on their farm. Often, we find common denominators on each farm that is the source of the high somatic cell count (SCC). Wearing gloves is a very simple management practice that could help to reduce contagious and environmental bacteria spread between quarters and cows.

Do you wear gloves while milking cows? You should! Gloves are a very inexpensive prevention tool for a large cost problem. This preventative tool can help to prevent bacteria and dirt from staying in the cracks, crevices and fingernail beds on your hands. Gloves can easily be disinfected between cows because of their smooth surface. Studies have shown that there are 75% fewer bacteria on used gloves than on bare hands. Wearing gloves also reduces the spread of both contagious and environmental bacteria by 50%.

Bacteria causing contagious mastitis on a farm is hard to cure, causing farms loss of milk production and money. Cows infected with contagious mastitis often cause a high bulk tank Somatic Cell Count (SCC). Due to this, producers should take every step necessary to prevent the spread of bacteria to other herd mates or within the udder. This bacteria travels from quarter to quarter via milk on your hands or within the milking unit. To limit the spread of contagious mastitis, milking practices such as milking infected animals last, post milking teat disinfectant, universal dry cow treatment and wearing gloves should be implemented on your farm.

In today's milk market, gloves are necessary to reach the highest premium available to your farm. It should be written into your standard operating procedures and required that they are worn by all employees. When choosing a glove be sure that it fits the employee’s hands smoothly like skin. Gloves come in many sizes and colors. It may be necessary to buy a variety to find what works on your farm. Gloves that are too large often tear easily and get stuck in the inflations due to vacuum. Gloves should be disinfected regularly during milking with teat dip or disinfecting solution. Used gloves should be disposed of; reusing gloves makes them brittle, causing frequent tears and increased risk of udder contamination.

Wearing gloves is an inexpensive way to help reduce overall herd SCC without a large investment. Will it take a while for you and your employees to get acclimated to how they feel? Yes, but it is worth the time and effort in the long run. Who knew something as easy as putting on a pair of milking gloves could help you reduce your overall herd SCC and increase profits on your farm?

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