Among numerous miracles of nature that we take for granted, surely one of the most important for dairy farm finances is a cow’s teat. Through each of these delicate structures will flow more than £2,000-worth of milk in an 8,500 litre, four-lactation lifetime.
Of course, just one injury or the accumulation of chronic wear and tear can condemn hard-working cows to the knacker-man. With some justification, the teat’s business end gets a lion’s share of advisory attention. Surely everyone knows that over-milking, for example, or a poorly maintained milking plant, can weaken or damage the teat orifice.
Less appreciated is the importance of keeping every teat’s skin, in soft and supple condition. Indeed, the majority of teat problems begin with dry skin, which then cracks open. Each milking prevents healing, so cracks get progressively worse. This allows dirt to collect, enabling mastitis bugs to colonise the crack. By maintaining healthy skin, the likelihood of this chain of events is much reduced, preventing mastitis bugs from gaining a foothold.
Moreover, even minor cracks are also painful and cause agitation during milking. This leads to clusters kicked off, manure splash onto teat ends, more re-attachments and some cows probably leaving the parlour or robot not milked out.