Time For A Look “Down-Under”?

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

If you think this article is going to be a travel brochure on Australia, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This article is in reference to the most important spot on your dairy – a cow’s teats. In the last few months I have taken the opportunity on several dairies I have visited to check the teats of cows that have just finished milking. I have been very surprised at the poor condition of the teats. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to convey to you a procedure that has been suggested at the National Mastitis Council Meetings on evaluating teat condition. This is important because poor teat condition can slow down milk-out time and, most importantly, lead to mastitis problems. The following material comes from a condensation of the two published reports (1,2) listed at the end of this article. All observations should be made within 1 minute after removal of the teat cups, and you need to evaluate at least 80 cows or 20% of the herd, whichever is larger. The evaluation is broken down into short, medium and long-term changes in teat conditions.

Short-term Changes (single milking)

Medium-term Changes (a few days or weeks)

Long-term Changes

This is the biggest problem that I have seen in the last few months. This is also easy to determine once you have seen the scoring system. The original scoring system was in two parts, ring size and shape and roughness of teat end. The following system is a combination of the two for ease of on-farm use.


Main short-term and medium-term effects. These are primarily associated with milking machine problems or poor milking management that result in long periods of milk flow below 1 kg milk (2.2 lb)/minute and/or overmilking.

Main medium-term and longer-term effects

These are associated with poor environment, management or chemical irritation, or cow factors such as teat shape, yield and genetics. Machine milking exacerbates these effects, especially if poor milking management results in overmilking or prolonged milking at low milk flow rate. Faults in milking equipment are unlikely to be the primary causal factors if one or more of the short-term changes are not obvious.

These effects are important because they are associated with increased incidence of mastitis. Any major outbreak of mastitis should include an evaluation of the teats in these categories.

The summer season is now at hand, which is also the time associated with increased incidence of mastitis. Now is the time to evaluate the teat ends of your cows so that any problems detected can be fixed before they turn into major ones. If you have questions or would like copies of the articles that I mentioned, feel free to contact me at 435-797-3763 or alleny@ext.usu.edu.

1. Mein, G.A., F. Neijenhuis, W.F. Morgan, D.J. Reinemann, J.E. Hillerton, J.R. Baines, I. Ohnstad, M.D. Rasmussen, L. Timms, J.S. Britt, R. Farnsworth, N. Cook, T. Hemling. 2001. Evaluation of bovine teat condition in commercial dairy herds: I. Non-infectious factors. Proc. 2nd International Symposium on Mastitis and Milk Quality, Vancouver, Canada, Sept. 13-15, 2001.

2. Neijenhuis, F., J. E. Hillerton, C.O. Paulrud, M.D. Rasmussen and J. Baines. 2004. Teat condition and mastitis. Proceedings National Mastitis Council, 122-131.