Teat preparation and spraying


5 min read

Teat preparation Why not to bulk wash Teat washing How to prevent dirty teats Teat spraying Benefits of teat spraying Teat sanitisation system types Tips

Learn about teat preparation and spraying basics and how washing keeps milk quality high, prevents damage, and reduces mastitis. Discover handy tips like strategic washing, proper drying, and avoiding bulk washing. We'll also explore ways to prevent dirty teats through track maintenance and udder protection and uncover the benefits of teat spraying: controlling mastitis, improving milk quality, and keeping our cows comfortable. We provide mixing guidelines and system recommendations and touch on other important topics like contagious mastitis, efficient tracks, milk let-down, and cluster removal. 

Teat preparation

Teat preparation before milking can involve the cleaning and/or massaging of teats before the cups are attached.

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.

Why not to 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.

Teat washing

  • 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.

Teat washing: what not to use

  • 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.

How to prevent 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.

Teat spraying

Teat spraying is critical for maintaining teat skin health and controlling mastitis during lactation.

What is teat spraying?

In New Zealand, teat sanitising usually refers to teat spraying or dipping, carried out immediately after cups have been removed. This can be a manual or automated process.

Teat spraying looks simple and this probably explains why so many people get it wrong. The effectiveness of teat spraying or dipping relies on complete coverage of the teat. This task takes time and is poorly done on many New Zealand farms.

What products to use?

Teat sanitising products must be approved to ensure they won’t result in undesirable milk residues. A list of approved chemicals is available on the New Zealand Food Safety website or you can contact a Milk Quality Representative from your dairy company.

How to teat spray?

Teat spray all teats of all cows immediately after every milking, and throughout the whole lactation period. Cover the whole teat of every cow to maximise effectiveness.

Teat spraying before cup attachment increases the risk of milk contamination and there are strict criteria associated with this practice. If you wish to do it contact a Milk Quality Representative from your dairy company and ensure you are carrying out the correct technique.

Teat Spray Mixture Procedure

  • New batches of teat spray should be mixed at regular intervals, ideally every 1 – 3 days.
  • Use water of drinking quality.
  • Mix according to the label. Some products suggest different dilution rates depending on the stage of the season and the risk of mastitis.
  • Most teat sanitisers also contain an emollient to improve teat skin condition. Extra emollient may be added in spring when teats are most tender, but generally it is best not to exceed 15-20% in the final mixture.
  • Make sure the procedure for mixing teat spray is displayed prominently, at the place where it will be mixed.

Watch the video below for teat spraying technique.

Teat spraying

Video 1:35 min

Benefits of teat spraying

  • Teat spraying after milking has been proven to reduce the incidence of new mastitis infections by 50%. This means less time and cost spent treating mastitis, and separating milk from infected cows.
  • Minimises risk of BMSCC (bulk milk somatic cell count) grades from dairy companies, resulting from subclinical and clinical infections.
  • Reduces cow discomfort and poor milking behaviour associated with the pain of damaged teats.
  • Reduces teat cleaning time as dirt does not stick as easily to a well conditioned teat.

Teat sanitisation system types

Teat spray units come in manual and automated forms.

Which system is best?

See below table outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each teat sanitisation system.


Teat Spray System Description Advantages Disadvantages

Hand pump

Hand Pump

  • Hand-held pressurised containers
  • Commonly hold 1.5-2L of spray, sufficient for around 150 cows
  • Low cost
  • Portable
  • Requires regular refilling and pumping between rows
  • Prone to under-spray
  • Can break easily
  • Poor spray from cheap plastic nozzles
  • Heavy to hold up for long periods

Pressurised sprayer

Pressurised Sprayer


  • Solution is delivered through a pressurised line from a central reservoir
  • Spray guns and nozzles should extend 300-400mm from the handle and have an upwards angle of 90 degrees to ensure good coverage of all teats
  • Quick
  • Light to use
  • Do require frequent refilling
  • More expensive
  • Prone to under-spray

Teat dip

Teat Dip

  • Very effective as it gives good coverage of teats without exposing milkers to mists of the disinfectant
  • Total teat coverage guaranteed
  • Low solution usage
  • Slow application - time consuming
  • Regular refilling or multiple cups required to reduce the risk of contaminated solution

Automatic sprayer

Automatic Sprayer

  • Automated teat spraying systems include spraying teats in an exit race or spraying teats near the exit bail on a rotary platform
  • Low labour input
  • Prone to under-spray
  • Prone to missing the target area unless properly aligned
  • High solution usage
  • Needs to be maintained and monitored to ensure good application
  • Disinfectant levels need checking regularly

Tips: getting the best from your system

  • Visit other farms and see how effective their teat disinfection systems are.
  • Test the operator’s competency by wrapping a paper towel around teats just sprayed to check if disinfectant covered all surfaces.
  • Test the nozzle performance by checking the spray pattern. Spray upwards onto a sheet of paper and a solid cone of spray should be achieved.
  • Site automatic teat spray nozzles downwind of work areas.
  • Having spray units at conveniently placed locations around the dairy means time is not wasted walking to pick up the spray unit.
  • Avoid inhaling fine mists of chemical. Some people become sensitised to them.
  • New batches of teat spray should be mixed at regular intervals, ideally every 1-3 days. Use water of drinking quality.
  • Mix according to the label. Some products suggest different dilution rates depending on the stage of the season and the risk of mastitis.
  • Most teat sanitisers also contain an emollient to improve teat skin condition. Extra emollient may be added in spring when teats are most tender, but it is recommended not to exceed 15-20% in the final mixture.
Last updated: Sep 2023

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