5-point strategy for keeping your herd’s teats healthy in winter

Winter brings cold, harsh weather with low humidity – the perfect conditions for teat skin damage, including chapping and hyperkeratosis; the most common skin and teat end problems. During these cold months, teat skin lesions are a major predisposing factor in cows to mastitis.

By overcoming winter challenges, dairy farm owners can minimize teat skin damage and resulting loss from infected cows, which impacts productivity and milk quality.

The key to obtaining quality milk includes adopting proper milking and udder care procedures. Teat dipping is an important part of the milking procedure and mastitis prevention plan.

Below are some simple strategies for keeping your herd healthy and producing high quality milk throughout the winter.

Keep the teat skin well conditioned

The thickness of the teat skin changes during extreme weather conditions; It is therefore important to condition it in order to keep it well hydrated and soft during the winter season.

Using a lactic teat dip with a high emollient acid content helps exfoliation of dead skin, it can reduce hyperkeratosis and make teat ends smoother. NEOGEN® SYNOFILM, a low-drip lactic acid-based formulation that contains emollients, which aid in the recovery and prevention of cracked or chapped teats.

Smoother teats can harbor less bacteria and are easier to clean. Starting the pacifier preconditioning early helps prepare the pacifier for harsh winter conditions before it hits, while reducing the risk of intramammary infections.

Winter teat dip

Post-soaking is just as important in winter as it is in summer to control mastitis. Choosing the right teat dip formulated for winter conditions is crucial. As noted above, a highly emollient teat dip helps protect, heal and soften teat skin in severe weather.

A good teat dip after winter should also have excellent biocidal activity against the bacteria causing mastitis. NEOGEN’s SYNOBARIAL, is a ready-to-use post-milking teat dip based on iodine and lactic acid, which is an extremely effective broad spectrum disinfectant suitable for winter use.

The mixture of lactic acid with multiple emollients helps keep the teat skin well conditioned while the presence of iodine makes it very effective for farms with high incidence of mastitis. For farms with good teat condition but a high incidence of mastitis, a chlorhexidine teat dip such as Hexsolve barrier, from NEOGEN is a good solution.

The use of a post-milking teat dip, which is a good balance between emollient and biocidal action from the start of winter, helps manage the health conditions of the herd on the farm.

Well maintained milking equipment

Milking equipment should be regularly serviced and serviced year round. However, special attention should be paid to service before the start of the winter months.

If the milking machine is not working properly, it can damage the udder blood vessels and cause hyperkeratosis at the end of the teat, causing more stress and pain to the cows.

It is essential to ensure that the current equipment settings are optimal for the current milk production of the cows. Settings too low or too high of the optimum for vacuum and pulsation will increase teat stress and worsen the poor condition of the teat end, resulting in hyperkeratosis at the teat end.

The milking machine also comes into regular contact with the udders of cows, which increases the risk of spreading mastitis-causing bacteria from cow to cow, so it should be thoroughly cleaned using good cleaners and cluster disinfectants.

A very effective bactericide like PERAGUARD or PERAGUARD PLUS from NEOGEN, which are powerful leave-in disinfectants, which can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination of bunches with bacteria causing mastitis. This helps maintain udder health and reduces the need for veterinary intervention.

Follow proper milking procedures

Proper milking procedures are crucial to harvesting high quality milk safely and quickly. Your milking procedure should allow for pre-milking teat dipping, clean teats, proper stimulation, milk descent time (90 to 120 seconds), proper fixation and alignment of the unit.

It is often best to treat 5-6 cows with a pre-soak and then go back to the first one before wiping. This allows sufficient contact time to kill the bacteria.

After leaving an appropriate contact time, the pre-soak solution should be wiped off with a clean cloth. This can be a paper towel or a cloth. It’s part of the stimulation process.

Remember that the release of oxytocin takes 90s from the moment of the first teat stimulation, so don’t rush to put the cluster. One of the strongest milk ejection stimuli is removing each front teat, which also allows you to check for any visual symptoms of mastitis.

A better housing environment

Dairy cows and housed calves face a wide range of environmental challenges. Managing an optimal housing environment minimizes the impact of winter conditions on teat health.

Bedding is a key part of preventing environmental mastitis, but keeping the bedding dry in the winter is especially important to prevent teat infections and colds. This could mean a more frequent litter change and less frequent use of recycled litter in winter.

Be sure to monitor the use of the stall; decline may indicate frozen litter or clumps of frozen litter in the stall.

Teats when exposed to the freezing wind can develop frostbite or crack, which is very stressful for cows. Wind blocks can help reduce wind speed and prevent teat skin deterioration.

A barn that keeps cows out of the wind and cold can have a very beneficial effect on the condition of the teat skin.

Paying attention to these five points will limit the effect of cold, harsh weather and help you manage teat health throughout the winter.

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