Is your dairy herd ready for the cold? Winter teat health tips

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Nov. 18 was a beautiful, 75-degree day, and then we woke up the next day with winds around 30 mph and temperatures under 30 degrees.

Yes, I believe the good weather is over and we should be prepared for cold, harsh weather ahead of us.

Teat damage

Generally, teat skin damage, chapped teats and an increase number of hyperkeratosis can happen during the cold months. Those are key factors predisposing cows to mastitis.

Some researches have shown that wind chill has an impact that is more important than actual ambient temperature.

When wind chills stay above zero, frozen teats are unlikely; between 0 and -25 degrees, frozen teats are possible; and if wind chills remain at or below -25 degrees, teats, especially if wet, can freeze in less than 1 minute.

Prevention

Thus, we present some approaches to prevent teat-end damage and maintain your cow’s health.

Teat skin condition: Selecting a proper teat dip is fundamental to keep the skin healthy. Emollients are crucial to protect, heal and soften skin in cold weather.

Maintain equipment: Watch out for malfunctioning curtains. Blocking the wind from loading areas and return alleys outside the parlor will reduce wind-chill temperatures. This will help prevent chapping and frostbite.

Housing environment: Keep bedding clean and dry. While bacteria grows best in  high temperatures and humidity, keep in mind stall surfaces are only a few degrees lower than body temperature when cows are lying down.  Still warm enough for bacteria to multiply.

Clean bedding means cleaner cows: And less water is needed to wash and clean teats. Water removes natural oils from the teats.

Rely on numbers rather than assumptions: If during the cold months you notice that hyperkeratosis (rough teat ends) is becoming a problem, let your veterinarian know. He or she will probably score some cows to establish a baseline making it easier to manage changes in the future.

Use a post-dip: New winter formulation dips with high emollient or powder based can be used to maintain skin conditioning and the germicidal activity so important for controlling mastitis.

Don’t wait

Last but not least don’t wait until the last minute to make a plan and be prepared.

Paying attention to these details can minimize the impact of cold weather on cows allowing them to produce high quality milk throughout the winter.

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The author is an assistant professor and Extension dairy veterinarian at the Ohio State University. Send questions or comments in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.

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