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For udder health protection, teat skin just as important as teat ends

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.

In his family’s 230-cow herd near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, Adam Chippendale recognises that protecting skin condition is a 24-7 insurance policy on every teat in the herd. With this aim, disinfection and skin conditioning are equal importance in selecting a post-milking teat spray.

Year-round calving means consistently about 200 cows in-milk through four robots, producing 11,000 litres/cow at 4.2% butterfat and 3.4% protein. Annual herd average somatic cell count is 140,000 cells/ml. Since introducing Unique teat cleaner as the post-milking spray mid-2019, Adam says teat skin condition is “better than ever“, with cell counts “the lowest we’ve seen” and at a lower cost than the previous teat spray.

Uniquely in the UK, the spray he’s using contains a human-grade emollient used in nipple cream for breastfeeding mums. It is equally suited to robots and three-times, twice or even once-a-day parlour systems, explains Sally Russell from EnviroSystems.

“The formulation offers non-antibiotic antimicrobial effects, with natural skin conditioning for soft supple teat condition,” she says. “Post-milking, there is no sticky residue that would attract soiling of teat ends. It can also be used as a pre-milking cleanser.

“And if your own hands have ever had cracked skin – easily caused by dairy chemicals, for example – then you’ll know why skincare is so important for udder health. Not only is damaged skin painful, but it’s also always dirty.

“Of course, no teat spray or dip can compensate for overdue new liners or a milking plant service. But with these in place on professional dairy farms, the selection of teat spray or dip also plays a significant part in good udder health.”

Environmentally, Unique teat spray/dip is non-toxic and biodegradable, so spills and drips have zero impact on slurry or drainage water. This ready-to-use product is available in IBCs (1,000 litres) or 200-litre drums.