Summer has arrived and temperatures are soaring, especially in Northern Victoria, and farms expecting these conditions will be making plans to help the cows cope with the heat.

Echuca forecast for a heat wave

Source: www.eldersweather.com.au - 13/1/2014

Dairy Australia's Cool Cows website (www.coolcows.com.au) has a large amount of information to assist herds in managing heat stress.

However, there is commonly an increase in the risk of mastitis under these conditions – is it possible to reduce or at least manage that risk?

The two core principles for reducing the risk of mastitis are to minimise the number of bacteria on the teat surface and to maximise & maintain teat end health.

Cows milling and lying in concentrated areas of shade leads to a large amount of faecal contamination with a markedly increased risk of contaminating teat skin.

Naturally shade is going to be essential, but could you manage the amount of time that cows spend in this area, or could you make it cleaner?

For example, will they need to be there overnight? Could you clean this area (e.g. with a grader blade)? Could you position feed & water a short distance away from the shade, so cows will defaecate less often in the actual shade area?

Sprinklers in the dairy yard (http://bit.ly/1fqg7RU) make a huge difference to the effect of heat stress, but they increase the risk of wet, dirty teats at cups on. Could you install a sprinkler timer so that they cycle off and on (http://bit.ly/KZZUFV), using less water and reduce the potential for water to run down onto teats?

But perhaps the biggest opportunity to manage the risk is what you do about any teat contamination once cows reach the milking platform.

Be very careful with sprinklers after cups off!

Introducing a wash and dry program for teats prior to cups on during these hot days will substantially reduce the number of bacteria on teats and consequently the risk of mastitis infections. In some herds, pre-milking teat disinfection at this time may also be a beneficial option.

And naturally, this is one time when post-milking teat disinfection needs to be as good as it can be – all milking staff should concentrate on achieving as close to 100% coverage of teat skin as possible.

Having sprinklers wetting cows immediately post-milking whilst teat orifices are still open can dramatically increase the risk of new infections (by washing off the teat disinfectant and replacing it with contaminated water/dirt!!). Be very careful with sprinklers immediately after cups off!

Teat end health is more of a medium term factor.

Hopefully liners have been changed on time (every 2500 cow milkings for rubber liners), milking machines have been tested and are all running well, so that teat condition is as good as possible. If not, the right corrective action taken now could resolve most teat condition issues quite quickly (about 3 weeks or so, and there is a lot more summer to come!).

If you would like to have a chat about your situation, or discuss how to implement any of the options, just give us a call at the Dairy Focus office, (03) 58590706.

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