It’s time to prepare your milk quality program for winter.


“Healthy teat skin is crucial to help cows fend off intramammary infections,” says Keith Engel, GEA dairy farm hygiene and supplies specialist. “By addressing winter weather and teat skin condition before the temperatures drop, you can minimize damage and loss of profitability from elevations in somatic cell count levels.”

Here are five ways to help keep teats healthy in winter:

Precondition the skin. Teat skin thickness changes rapidly during extreme temperature changes.

“Increasing the level and number of emollients in your post dip well before winter can help precondition teat skin by making it more pliable and ready for weather changes,” says Engel.

A chlorine dioxide teat dip containing lactic acid can help exfoliate the teat skin to slough off excess keratin. This type of teat dip helps reduce hyperkeratosis and prepare teats for colder temperatures.

 “Smoother teat ends also harbor fewer bacteria and are easier to clean,” says Engel.

Develop a winter teat dip plan. Using the appropriate post dip to help control mastitis is just as essential in the winter as it is during summer. Emollients are a critical ingredient in winter teat dip.

“Emollients help protect, heal and soften skin in harsh winter elements,” says Engel. “A successful winter teat dip should also include an effective germicide proven to kill mastitis-causing bacteria.”

When weather hits below freezing: Use a winter teat dip with a high level of emollients (74 to 76 percent) with a low enough freezing point to protect your cows. 

Maintain equipment and optimize automation. Vacuum and pulsation level settings too low or too high increase teat stress and aggravate teat ends. Check your detacher settings so they are not too low with your milk flow rate. If settings are too low, they can cause excessive compression on teat ends.

Review milking procedures. Milking procedures help maintain healthy teats and harvest high-quality milk. The ideal milking procedure includes appropriate stimulation, milk letdown time of 90 to 120 seconds, clean teats and proper unit attachment and alignment.

Have the housing environment ready for cold weather. Having the cows’ housing environment ready for winter can help minimize the weather’s impact on teats. Environmental adjustments could include bedding more frequently and using less recycled bedding.

Consider adding wind blocks to help reduce wind speeds and avoid chapping or frostbite. Keep alleys and holding pens clean with frequent scraping.

This article was submitted by GEA North America.