Winter, with its accompanying cold temperatures can present a challenge for mastitis control. Cold weather can cause chapped and/or cracked teats providing an opportunity for bacteria to colonize those cracks and gain entry into the teat during milking leading to mastitis. Teat dipping post milking is a recommended practice to protect teats from bacteria and control incidence of mastitis. However in very cold weather, post dipped wet teats run the risk of becoming frozen creating more problems. University of Minnesota (should know something about cold winter temperatures!) Extension recommends continuing the normal dipping routine but take extra steps for protection including:
- Use a clean cloth towel to blot teat dry after dip contact time of at least 30 seconds.
- Make sure the dip product has been protected from freezing and that the dip has not separated out. Stir or mix bulk dips before filling dip cups.
- Be careful with dips containing emollients that condition the teat skin. Teats covered with an emollient actually take longer to dry, increasing exposure of wet teats to cold temperatures.
- Dry powder dips promoted for cold weather use are difficult to apply to get the good coverage necessary for antibacterial protection.
- Provide a wind-free area for the cows as they leave the parlor. Wind chill is a factor and wind protection can greatly help in reducing the freezing potential of teats.
Overall, drying teats and providing wind protection are the two simplest protective measures to prevent freezing teats on dairy cows during periods of very cold weather. Yes, drying the teats after dipping requires some extra time, but keeping teats healthy is more preferable than milking cows with cracked or freeze damaged teats.