PRIMGHAR, Iowa — This morning, the temperature is minus 11°F and the high is expected to be 8°F with winds at 15 miles per hour. Last week, temperatures were bumping 50°F and now we aren’t predicted to hit 25°F this week. In the milk barn, one of the biggest challenges during extreme cold weather is teat health. The teat has naturally occurring oils that help to prevent skin chapping, cracking and damage in cold weather, but washing plus pre and post dips can remove those oils and expose wet teat tissue to frigid temperatures.
Teat skin damage opens cows up to mastitis. Avoiding injury is more economical than treatment. Unfortunately, mammary injury of some type is inevitable in many dairy operations.
Research supports that wind chill is more important than actual ambient temperature. When wind chills stay above zero, frozen teats are unlikely, but if wind chills remain at or below -25°F, teats, especially if wet, can freeze in less than one minute.
The best recommendations are those of basic animal husbandry. Keeping the dairy cow clean, dry and out of the wind are imperative to avoid damage. To control mastitis, regardless of injury, the dairy farm operator has to control what gets on those teat ends, which means sanitation. A loafing or free stall bedding area must be cleaned regularly. Eliminate the fecal material and provide clean bedding daily.
Since the teat orifice is the first line of defense in protecting a cow from mastitis infection, it is important to remember that the teat end condition changes increase based upon exposure to milking machines, chemical damage, environmental and temperature exposure. Teat end changes often occur in winter with rapid changes in temperature. To counter such effects, the use of salves and teat dips with extra skin conditioners have been promoted as a means of maintaining soft and pliable skin and healthy teat ends. Iowa State University research indicates that several barrier teat dips are equally able to maintain good teat skin condition, as well as help improve teat end condition over the winter period especially pre- and post-milking teat dips containing skin conditioners like glycerin and lanolin.
Planning for the cold weather allows the opportunity to have best management practices in place before the damage is done. Cold weather guideline from the National Mastitis Council include:
- In very cold weather it may be advisable to dip just the teat end.
- When teats are dipped, dip only the end and blot off any excess with a single-use paper towel.
- Teats should be dry before turning cows out of the barn.
- Warming the teat dip reduces drying time.
- Windbreaks in outside holding areas provide some protection.
- Fresh cows with swollen udders are more susceptible to chapping.
For more information, visit the Iowa State Extension Dairy Team website at:
— Fred M. Hall, Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
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