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1308 PD: Changing weather, changing teat ends

Norm Schuring for Progressive Dairyman Published on 29 August 2008

We’re often reminded of change this time of year as outdoor temperatures drop lower, leaves change color and shorts and sandals are exchanged for coats and boots. The change in temperature and weather can negatively impact udder health and, if not handled properly, can wreak havoc on teat ends.

Appropriate adjustments to milking practices and environmental conditions can help your herd navigate the change in seasons.

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Teat physiology
The shift from summer weather to cool, windy and wet conditions can have a dramatic effect on teat-end skin and health. Understanding teat physiology provides the opportunity to protect the teat skin and teat ends with the appropriate conditioning products and environment to maintain udder health.

Teat skin has no sweat glands, oil glands or hair follicles, which makes the skin particularly susceptible to climate change. Without hair follicles, teat ends come in direct contact with blustery wind and cold temperatures, which can cause chapping. Natural skin oils can be removed by continual contact with soaps and detergents, meaning even the regular use of a high-quality predipping solution can leave teats dry and prone to chapping.

Overdrying is also very common as the season changes, especially when there are low moisture levels in the air. The outer layer of skin loses moisture quickly, which increases susceptibility to air movement.

Research continues to show dried, chapped or cracked teat skin promotes irritation and the growth of bacteria, which may lead to a higher incidence of mastitis. All of these factors reinforce the importance of teat skin care and proper management practices to maintain milk quality and udder health.

What cooler temperatures mean
To combat changing weather, establish a harsh-weather teat care program early. Adjusting parlor procedures and teat dip selection can help minimize problems and the potential for a loss in profitability. Here are a few areas to focus on when maintaining teat skin and teat-end health.

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• Machine effects
Poorly functioning machines can lead to teat-end and teat-skin problems. Although milking units are not often the cause of poor teat health, milking machines can aggravate already existing problems. Work with your local dealer to ensure proper vacuum levels are being used, the pulsation ratio is at appropriate levels and the automatic take-off function is working properly. Be aware that detacher settings that are at a low milk flow rate can lead to teat-end damage as the result of prolonged unit-on time. Conversely, pulsation settings that are set at a wide ratio may not provide adequate teat massage, resulting in fluid congestion.

• Infectious agents
The type and amount of bacteria in the environment will change as temperatures shift. Especially in wet conditions, bacteria populations tend to flourish. Bacteria can hide in cracks and teat folds, so predipping and premilking procedures are essential to reducing mastitis-causing pathogens.

To protect teat ends and provide the necessary germicide, use a teat dip that contains a skin conditioner, which functions in two ways. Skin conditioners add moisture from the outside environment to the teat skin, keeping the teat skin hydrated and healthy. They also form a protective layer on the skin surface, which prevents water evaporation.

• Milking procedures
Proper premilking procedures can reduce much of the teat-end bacteria load. Poor milking procedures, on the other hand, can have a detrimental effect on milk quality and teat health. The effects of poor milking procedures are often exacerbated during changing weather conditions.

In the milking parlor, teat-end health relies heavily on proper udder stimulation before unit attachment. Inadequate stimulation can apply unnecessary vacuum pressure without the release of milk, injuring both teat ends and teat skin. Proper stimulation results in adequate letdown so cows are ready to release milk when the unit is attached.

• Teat skin and teat end evaluations
Before teat health becomes an even bigger problem, score teats to evaluate the herd’s current udder health. Cows with calloused, chapped or rough teat ends should raise a red flag. Changing weather will only aggravate the problem, often resulting in higher somatic cell counts and new mastitis cases.

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A proactive approach before weather changes is key to prevention. Increase focus on teat-end health and properly prepare your herd for the changing weather. Work to soften teat ends and keep calloused teat ends clean. Utilize an alternative teat dip that provides a skin conditioner or higher emollient levels to soften teat ends and maintain udder health.

Manage the environment
Managing the environment can minimize the weather’s effects on teat-end health. Here are some recommendations for keeping weather conditions optimal in the coming months:

• Provide wind shields
Keep brisk wind to a minimum with wind shields in the barn. This can prevent additional chapped teats.

• Change bedding frequently
Bedding draws in a lot of moisture, needed by bacteria to thrive, from the outside environment. Replace wet bedding more regularly to keep bacteria populations manageable.

• Clean alleys and holding pens
More water means more splashing of manure onto cows’ udders as they walk, which means more work in the parlor and a better chance cows are coming in contact with mastitis-causing organisms. Keep alleys and holding pens clean by scraping more frequently.

As you break out your cool-weather jacket, remember teat ends need the same protection from the outside environment. Whether it’s rain, cold or wind, a little more care and attention in the parlor and to the outside environment can maintain milk quality and teat-end health. PD

Norm Schuring
Vice President for WestfaliaSurge
schuring.norm@ westfaliasurge.com

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