As well as ensuring that milk quality is not affected by dirty teats, washing helps the cow produce oxytocin, the milk let-down hormone which creates a better milk flow.
Teat washing and ensuring the teats are clean before attaching the cups has the following benefits:
- Can prevent milk quality issues, maintains milk quality.
- Reduces animal health issues - reduces risk of teat damage, reduces mastitis associated with teat damage or excessive dirt on teats.
In New Zealand there are two teat washing practices:
- Universal washing - where every teat is washed.
- Strategic washing - where only those which are visibly dirty are washed.
Strategic washing is most commonly practiced in New Zealand. Strategic washing of dirty teats will save time, although there is no opportunity to stimulate the udder through handling/massage to encourage let-down. However, in most cases this is not required.
Drying of teats after washing is essential as it reduces the chance of mastitis, and the risk of milk contamination. Dry teats also interact better with the teat cup liner.
Don't bulk wash
Bulk washing is washing cows and teats with the pressurized wash-down hose on entry to the bails or in the collecting yard. Bulk washing of udders is not an acceptable practice as it can compromise milk quality by washing bacteria off the flanks and udder into the cups.
How do I wash a dirty teat?
- Wash the teats only, not the whole udder.
- Use a low pressure, clean water supply.
- Rub hard to remove dirt with your hand or a paper towel.
- Wear gloves to prevent chapped hands and cracks as well as reducing the chance of spreading bacteria. Milkers’ gloves should be rinsed frequently in running water – at least after each row of cows.
- Dry teats using paper towels, kitchen roll or torn up squares of old newspaper. Laundered cotton (face) flannels can also be used to dry teats (one per cow) but need to be washed and dried between milkings. If the teats are not dried, dirty water will move down to the teat end and then into the milk and the teat orifice causing milk quality problems or mastitis.
- Udder soap - it can lead to udder cracking and spreading of bacteria.
- Udder cloths to wash teats - the cloth will transfer bacteria onto the next cow’s teats unless the cloths are washed after every milking and only one cloth is used per cow.
Preventing dirty teats
Preventing teats getting dirty to start with will decrease the time spent washing and drying teats in the dairy. Look out for the following:
- Muddy tracks and races cause muddy teats. Other major ‘mud spots’ are around water troughs, stock camping areas and shady spots. For more information on efficient tracks click here.
- Feed pads need regular cleaning - they can be a source of manure and dirt.
- Protecting the teat skin with an emollient in the teat disinfectant is an easy way to improve teat skin condition - dirt finds it harder to stick to healthy skin.
- Removing any excess hair from around the udder, through shaving, clipping or flaming, reduces the need for washing teats.
- Trimming tail switches on a regular basis will also reduce soiling of the teats and udder.