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)
- Color changes – normal (pink) vs discolored
- Swelling at or near base of teat – normal vs visible lip mark
- Swelling or firmness at or near the teat end – normal (soft and supple) vs firm, swollen or hard, or severely wedged
- Openness of the teat orifice – closed vs open (more than 2 mm wide or deep)
- Teat skin condition – normal vs dry, open lesions
- Vascular damage – normal vs small to more extensive hemorrhages
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.
- Teat end conditions - No ring (N), Smooth or slightly rough ring (S), Rough (R), or Very rough (VR). There is a drawing of these types of teat ends available from several sources. If you can’t find one, let me know and I will send you a copy.
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
- Color: more than 20% of cows have one or more teats that are reddened or tinged with blue.
- Swelling at or near top of teat: more than 20% of cows have one or more teats with marked swelling or palpable rings.
- Swelling and hardness at or near the teat-end: more than 20% of cows have one or more teat-ends classified as firm, hard or swollen, or severely wedged.
- Openness of teat orifice: more than 20% of cows have 1 or more teat orifices classed as open (2 mm or more).
- Vascular damage: more than 10% of cows have small hemorrhages.
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.
- Teat skin condition: more than 5% of cows have open lesions (including chaps or cracks) on one or more teats.
- Teat-end hyperkeratosis: more than 20% of cows have one or more teats that are scored R or VR, or more than 10% scored VR (see above).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.