There is a whole range of dairy farm management systems in the UK, each presenting unique challenges to teat health.
However, Alison Cox, technical manager with dairy hygiene specialists Deosan, says dairy farmers do not consider enough the effectiveness of hygiene products and, more importantly, the cost benefit to be gained from selecting the correct product for specific farm conditions.
Mrs Cox says: “The teat is the first line of defence against mastitis, an infection which significantly affects the profitability and welfare of the UK dairy herd. And yet initial cost often takes priority over environmental conditions and teat condition when choosing post-milking disinfection products.
“This can be a short-term approach to teat hygiene and one which can result in significant losses in the longterm. A new way is needed if the dairy herd wants to make strides in improving herd health and longevity.”
She says the choice of post milking teat disinfectant should be made following careful consideration to the challenges the cows will face, which change depending on the environmental conditions.
“The most obvious consideration is if the herd is outside or inside. If they are outside they are exposed to the elements, which brings its own challenges on teat health.
“When exposed to cold, wet and windy conditions, the skin of machine-milked teats often becomes scaly, irritated or chapped. To make matters worse, in an effort to compensate, the skin can then ‘fight back’ by producing cells which result in the thickening of the skin as well as producing a dry, flaky layer.”
Mrs Cox says in these conditions, the protective surface coating may be removed, increasing the risk of bacterial infection. Preventative measures are important to avoid this damage.
She advises milk producers to use a product which has balanced emollients to ensure rehydration and moisture retention as well as fast-acting bacteria with quick absorption and drying capabilities.
“Many farmers look for products which have a dual role for pre- and post-routines via the same application. Look out for a product which rapidly removes soil to allow optimum disinfection of the teat and, if applied post-milking, ensures the greatest protection against bacterial threat.
SKIN condition is less of a challenge when cows are inside, however other factors need to be taken into account:
■ Controlling environmental bacteria becomes a priority, so pre-milking teat cleaning/biocidal action needs to be addressed
■ Transitional animals could also benefit from viscous/highemollient content products
According to Mrs Cox, other factors can also bring new challenges for teat hygiene – such as transition between groups, diet changes, bedding changes, seasonal weather conditions, group management etc.
But she adds it is always important to keep the hygiene management simple, so selecting a product which works for all your herd effectively needs some thought.
“Annual spend on hygiene products can be significant, so time spent researching the best products can pay dividends.”
An issue which is also becoming more relevant to dairy farmers is residue control and the environment, says Mrs Cox.
“Milk buyers are playing a role in driving this and presumably will continue to do so, so products which are proven to minimise residues should be researched.”