Two core principles behind mastitis control are to minimise the number of bacteria on teat skin and to maximise & maintain teat end health.
Whilst pre-milking teat preparation is not routinely used in most Australian herds, there is good evidence that targeted use can be of significant benefit.
In situations where there is excessive exposure of teats to mud and/or faecal material, the introduction of a pre-milking wash & dry routine can significantly reduce the number of bacteria on the teat surface and hence the risk of mastitis.
Removal of this contamination also allows the teat disinfectant to get to the skin, maximising the chances of both killing bacteria and getting emollient to the skin surface to improve teat skin health.
Remember that "gold" standard is to have cups going onto clean, dry teats after the cow has had a milk let-down.
A wash & dry routine is highly effective at reducing the contamination on teats, but will generally require either extra time at milking, or an extra person in the dairy for those milkings when it is needed, especially if pre-milking teat disinfection is also incorporated into the routine.
1. Washing teats
Wash teats with running water.
Aim the hose at the teat; avoid getting excessive water on the udder as it will run down to the teat during milking, adding to the risk of contaminated water being around the teat end during milking.
Allow a few seconds after washing for excess water to drip from teats before drying.
2. Drying teats
Dry teats with one paper towel per cow before cups go on.
Some paper towels are better than others for this job - for example, some paper towels made from recycled paper can be extremely frustrating as the paper often disintegrates in your hand before you have finished drying!
Interleaved paper towels commonly work well, either by hand or from a dispenser.
You will probably be surprised at how much dirt and contamination comes off the teats on the paper towel even after washing with running water.
Have a look at the two cows above - which teats do you think will be lower risk for mastitis?
Deciding on a pre-milking wash & dry routine for teats will require a little thought and preparation.
After all, if you are not set up with the right tools, the right paper towels and the right people, it just won't happen.
If you would like some more information or hints on how you might best do this, give us a call at the Dairy Focus office.