A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The hyperkeratosis represented in this picture is a a result of improper machine function.
( Roger Thomson )

Most issues that you deal with while managing your dairy operation arrive in a verbal package. A phone call, a conversation, a text, a 2-way radio blast and you suddenly have one more problem on your plate. Often your first step in resolving the problem is to get more information. This may be more verbal data, or a quick look on your computer or phone. If you are like me you will want to get your eyes on the situation. A picture is truly worth a thousand words in many cases.

When it comes to troubleshooting milk quality issues, there are many variables that are part of the overall problem. A set of experienced eyes are often helpful in separating the wheat from the chaff. One topic that is particularly confusing and very difficult to describe in words revolves around teat health issues.

The teat is an amazing structure for many reasons, but three important ones are:

  1. The teat skin and streak canal create a barrier preventing infective organisms from entering the mammary gland while helping store the milk.
  2. The teat contains two distinct valves, the streak canal at the end and the annular ring at the base. Both are involved in storing and releasing milk during machine harvesting.
  3. The teat allows a biological organism to be connected with a man-made machine. No other animal-based food harvesting requires this kind of repeated connection every few hours, for months on end. And we need the dairy animal to fully participate in the process every time.


Teat problems (lesions) include mild dry skin, callouses, blood congestion, bleeding cracks, viral or bacterial skin infections, physical injuries and more. Due to this great variation a group of researchers and consultants from around the world formed a group they called the TCI (Teat Club International). I first learned about this group’s efforts at an NMC (formerly The National Mastitis Council) meeting more than two decades ago. These researchers created a DVD loaded with teat pictures and accompanying detailed descriptions. Normal and abnormal teat pictures were included. I purchased this DVD and it revolutionized my knowledge of teat health issues and my ability to diagnosis lesions that I observed.

The NMC has taken the original Teat Club International DVD, added hundreds more pictures and put it in an application now available on the NMC website. Once on the NMC home page hover on the “Resources” tab at the far right and in a drop down box you will find the “Teat Condition Portfolio (members only)”. Click on this to access the Teat Condition Portfolio.

Yes it requires you to join the NMC but I strongly believe this new app along with a large number of resource materials, fact sheets and books will make the membership fee worthwhile. This new web based Teat Condition Portfolio is just another example of why NMC membership does come with some important privileges.