Teat damage; the sneaky cause of SCC spike

Teat damage; the sneaky cause of SCC spike
Teat damage; the sneaky cause of SCC spike
Teat damage; the sneaky cause of SCC spike
Teat damage; the sneaky cause of SCC spike
By Jemma Guyton, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Matamata

Teats are the true heroes in milking. They are the only part of the cow exposed to the forces applied by milking machine vacuum and liners every day and in most cases, twice a day. This makes them vulnerable to damage, so they need to be looked after!

Have you ever looked at your cows teats after cups off?

Assessing your herd’s teats immediately after cups off, but just prior to teat spraying, provides an accurate picture of teat health. If the physical forces of milking cause stress on teat tissue there will be visible changes that can be seen and measured across a herd.

What to look for on teats:

  • Rough teat ends
  • Black scabs or pocks
  • Sores, chaps or cracks
  • Red, blue or ringed teat barrels
  • Pin point bleeding
If you’re seeing more than 4% of teats with damage or more than 10% of cows, this is too high and indicates improvements can be made in the milking process. It’s not just about new mastitis infections, it’s also about efficient milk harvesting – healthy teats and comfortable milking machines will lead to faster milk out.

Why does teat health matter?

Teat damage is not only uncomfortable and painful, it can also result in increased rates of new mastitis infections. This is due to the damaged skin being the perfect place for mastitis-causing bacteria to live compared to a smooth teat end. These mastitis-causing bugs can then very easily find their way into the teat canal and cause a case of clinical or subclinical mastitis. The usual culprits are Corynebacterium, coagulate negative staph (CNS) or strep dysgalactiae.

What can you do to help improve teat condition in your herd?

TEAT SPRAY! Every cow, every teat, every milking!The importance of teat spraying cannot be overstated! It should never be forgotten, especially during busy periods such as mating. After milking, bacteria multiply on the teat skin so if the whole surface of the teat is disinfected immediately after cups off the spread can be reduced. Teat spraying can reduce new mastitis cases by 50% by reducing bacteria on teats as well as improve teat condition.

How do you know if your teat spraying practises are adequate?

Make sure all farm staff are on the same page. Teat spray is only effective if it is mixed correctly and applied properly.
Check your teat spray mix
  • Use a registered and reputable brand. In some situations, a specific teat spray active i.e. Iodine instead of chlorhexidine based teat spray will be recommended. But in general, there is limited research to indicate that one active is better than the other.
  • Accurately mixed according to label directions.
  • Mix the correct concentration for the bacterial challenge i.e. during high-risk periods such as spring use 1:4. A high concentration may need to be used all season if you have a high prevalence of contagious mastitis bugs in your herd.
  • Use water of high quality to mix teat spray e.g. cooled water from the hot water cylinder.
  • Make up the batch regularly (at a minimum 2-3 times per week) and keep in a clean, sealed container out of the light.

Check your emollient levels
  • If you are seeing dry, chapped teats with cracks, check the emollient levels.
  • Most brands will have emollient already in the concentrate but this can be increased by adding additional emollient (glycerine or sorbitol), particularly in harsh environmental conditions like in early spring or when you have identified issues with teat condition.
  • You can add emollient up to a maximum of 15% of the total mixture – but be careful as this makes the mix thicker and this may not work well in your system.

Check teat spray coverage
  • In order to achieve adequate coverage, the industry recommendation is 15-20ml/cow/milking so if you have a herd of 300 cows you should be using a minimum of 4.5L per milking! If you are using an automatic teat sprayer the amount used needs to be higher as often more of the cow is sprayed instead of just the teats.
  • Every teat needs to be fully covered – this means the whole teat barrel.
  • Spray upwards from beneath the teats, not from the side or as the cows are walking out.
  • A drop of teat spray seen at the teat end doesn’t mean adequate coverage.
  • Don’t forget the front teats!
  • You can also do the “paper towel test” to check teat spray coverage:
    • Using your hand, wrap a clean paper towel around a teat. Unroll the paper to see if all the surfaces of the teat have been sprayed.

Get a milking assessment done

Most machine tests are what we call ‘dry tests’, where the assessment is done when there are no cows in the shed. When you are concerned about your herd’s teat condition, this sort of test can only identify some issues. Therefore we recommend assessment of the interaction between the machine and the cows during milking. Our vets that have been through the Fonterra Accredited Mastitis training will be able to look at the teat condition and do a thorough milking assessment to understand what factors are contributing to teat health in your herd. This can help identify if any actions needs to be made in the milking plant or milking process to enhance teat health and milking. Contact us if you have any concerns or would like to find out more about getting a milking assessment done on your farm.

Date Added: Wednesday, 4th November 2020