Clinical mastitis continues to be the number one health problem identified by dairy producers. It affects 25% of all U.S. dairy cows. There is consensus that the most prevalent contagious bacteria are Strep. agalactiae, Staph. aureus, and Mycoplasma. Environmental bacteria such as E. coli and Klebsiella are also a constant and significant threat.
Cow cleanliness, teat disinfectants, and proper milking practices are the critical triad to reduce bacterial contamination of teat ends and minimize the risk of mastitis. Regardless of the causative organism, the use of gloves is a fundamental prophylactic practice because they greatly reduce the risk of transmitting pathogens between cows.
On most commercial dairies, the milking routine consists of five basic steps: forestripping, predipping, wiping, milking, and postdipping. Forestripping is the manual removal of three to five squirts of milk from the teats to check for abnormal milk before milking starts. This step removes milk with the highest somatic cell concentration present in the teat canal and stimulates milk letdown. It’s been estimated that 12% of all U.S. dairy operations do not forestrip their cows.
Predipping reduces the teats’ exposure to bacteria and minimizes the number of bacteria that enter the milk line. Almost 96% of all U.S. operations use a premilking teat disinfectant. The preference is for iodine-based dips on 56% of all dairies, followed by chlorhexidine at 12%. The next step is wiping the teats clean with a towel and then attaching the milking unit.
Continue reading this article published in Hoard’s Dairyman