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Where your teat dip is made matters

Jessica Belsito Published on 18 April 2014

We have been talking a lot about teat dip lately. Recently, I have covered the basic chemistry behind it, the types of germicides, and the other ingredients and what they do. What we haven’t spoken about is who is making the dip and how it is being made.

Why are we paying so much attention to this aspect? Because it is just as important as what is in the dip. Manufacturing facilities and standard operating procedures can make all the difference when we are making teat dip.

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Before I get started, I think it may be prudent to mention there may be many different ways in which your teat dip becomes a ready-to-use product. Let’s go through some of the scenarios. If you purchase a ready-to-use product, there are two things that could have happened.

One, the product was made, ready to use, at a large-scale manufacturing operation. The second is that the person you bought the dip from bought a concentrate and then diluted the concentrate down to a ready-to-use product.

Finally, the concentrate may have been diluted by you on your farm. As you can see, it is important to know who is involved in making the final product you use. And it is important to know their procedures so you can be sure you are receiving a quality product.

Whether it is a concentrate or a ready-to-use product, the manufacturer should be doing the same general testing. Testing should evaluate the chemical and physical properties. The chemical properties include the active ingredients and other ingredients pertinent to a formula, and a few other things, such as pH.

Checking the chemical stability for both concentrates and ready-to-use products is very important. Product shelf life under normal conditions should be determined. This makes sure the germicide in the teat dip will not only remain effective but also remain at the level indicated on the label for a certain period of time.

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Stability testing should include short-term and long-term tests. It is also recommended that the manufacturer run a freeze/thaw cycle for three cycles.

When dealing with concentrates, it is prudent to reconstitute aged concentrate using the same methods found on the label directions. This test can help to determine the shelf life of product diluted near the end of the concentrates’ shelf life. The manufacturer should also retain batch samples of all concentrates and ready-to-use products.

Evaluating the physical properties can include a multitude of different things. For example, if the product is a barrier dip, is the viscosity (thickness) acceptable? Will it cling to the teat correctly? Is the dip the correct color?

Color markers in some dips, such as hydrogen peroxide or chlorhexidine, make it possible for employees to visually see if they are dipping the cows correctly. It is important to evaluate for all these things to make sure the dip is a quality product.

I know I have mentioned this in previous articles, but the water used to make the dip is so critical. It is so important that anyone who is making teat dip have the water tested regularly. Water needs to be tested for mineral content, bacteria and pH.

Some minerals can alter the germicidal activity of the teat dip. Some facilities may need to soften the water before the dip is made or before a concentrate is diluted down to a ready-to-use product.

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The parameters of acceptable water conditions (for example, alkalinity, hardness, iron) should be available to you from the manufacturer. If you are unsure of what you need to do to correct the mineral content in your water, check with the manufacturer of the concentrate. Water needs to be tested frequently.

To test for bacteria, you need to obtain a water sample. Before you do this, find the lab or facility that can perform the necessary procedures and ask them how they would like you to collect the sample. A sample should be collected in a plastic, single-use and sterile container.

Ship it to the lab using their recommended procedures. If the sample comes back contaminated, you will need to take appropriate measures to clean your water supply. Bacteria can overcome the active germicide in teat dip. If this happens, you are essentially doing more harm than good when you dip your cows.

The equipment used in manufacturing concentrates and diluting concentrates is also an important factor. Is it used only for teat dips? Is it being cleaned appropriately in between batches? Is the material in the containers and handling equipment non-reactive?

All these things are important parts of making an effective teat dip. It is also important to note that the manufacturer of the teat dip, whether it is concentrate or ready-to-use, be an approved FDA facility. Teat dips are considered a drug and therefore regulated by the FDA.

There is also a list of dos and don’ts for the actual mixing of concentrates. It is imperative that you follow the manufacturer’s directions. The correct volume of water must be added and the solution mixed correctly.

If there is too much concentrate, teat skin could be burned (or skin of farm personnel), and if too much water is added, the dip will be less effective. Unless specifically listed on the label or mixing procedures, do not add any other ingredients, like extra glycerine or other skin conditioners.

Use clean, non-reactive containers and never mix a new batch with an old batch. This can affect the effectiveness and stability of the product. If you have any questions about the end product, you should have it tested. The manufacturer should be able to assist you with this. Also make sure the end product is labeled appropriately.

Storage is also an important consideration. Is the dip being stored where it can freeze? Alternatively, is the dip stored where it can be too hot? Are any other chemicals able to drip into the teat dip container? Can any organic matter (manure for example) find its way into the teat dip container? All these things are important to maintaining the stability and effectiveness of the product.

The label on the teat dip should be a helpful source of information for you. If the label is for a concentrate product you are mixing, it should tell you specifically how much water to add and what the final concentration of the product will be as well as exactly how to mix the dip.

All labels should tell you a lot number, a manufacture date and how long the dip is good for or an expiration date, and a list of active ingredients. Safety information should also be prominently displayed on all labels as well as the manufacturer’s information.

Teat dips are an extremely important step in preventing mastitis. It is critical that when choosing a dip you consider all the factors. Germicides, skin conditioners and other “inert” ingredients all play a crucial role in the efficacy of teat dips.

However, the best germicide in the world will fail if the dip hasn’t been manufactured, handled, stored and reconstituted properly. Get the most out of your financial investment in teat dip by making sure you are purchasing a quality product. PD

jessica belsito

Jessica Belsito
Director of Marketing and Technical Adviser
IBA, Inc.

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