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A teat end that has already been wiped is recontaminated by contact with the worker's forearm. Start by cleaning the teats farthest away.

Whether you’re practicing blanket or selective dry cow therapy, or you’re using just a teat sealant at dry off, it’s important that the process is done properly to make your udder health treatment as effective as possible.

The following are a few important points to consider regarding udder health when it’s time to dry treat your cows.

Haste Makes Waste

Take the time to do it right! Cows will often be dry treated at the end of a milking shift. This can mean that the milkers are tired and just want to be done so they can take a break or get on to their next task. This means that they might want to get the dry-off treatments done as fast as possible.

But (no matter when it is being done) faster is not usually better and can lead to cutting corners and not paying attention to details.

The crew responsible for dry treating the cows should be told to take the time they need to do an excellent job.

Knowledge is Power

They should also know what the goals of the treatment process are — to get all the product or products into the proper location in the udder or teat without introducing any bacteria into the udder while doing so.

If the parlor manager helps with the procedure, she or he should make sure to set a good example by taking their time and carefully following the correct steps.

Keep it Clean

It hardly needs to be said that the crew should be wearing gloves for this procedure, that the gloves should remain clean, and that they should be sanitized regularly. Handling clean teats, alcohol wipes and infusion syringes with dirty gloves can pretty much defeat the whole process!

The teat ends must be absolutely clean before anything (antibiotic or sealant) gets infused into the teat. To achieve this, the teats should be prepped just like prior to milking — dry-wiped if necessary, then dipped with an effective predip product.

Even if you have just finished milking the cows, they should still be dipped, since the teats will be covered with a film of milk from contact with the inflations, and there will be bacteria in this milk.

Once the predip has been on for a sufficient time (follow the manufacturer’s recommendations), use a clean towel to wipe the teats, paying special attention to getting each teat end free of manure, bedding and predip. Wipe the teats farthest away first, then finish up with the nearest teats to avoid recontaminating a clean teat end.

Next, take a wipe, pledget or gauze soaked in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to scrub each teat end.

A new wipe should be used for each teat end, and the wipe should be inspected when finished to ensure that there is no manure, bedding or teat dip on the wipe.

If there is, a second wipe should be used to repeat the process. Once again, wipe the teats farthest away first, then the ones nearest.

At least a few seconds should elapse so that the alcohol can evaporate before starting the infusion — but not so much time that there is a chance that the teat end will get splattered with manure, for example.

That is, don’t wipe six or 12 cows before going back to infuse the antibiotic/sealant in the first one. There should also be plenty of wipes available so that the crew members don’t feel they need to be thrifty with them.

The tubes of antibiotics and/or sealant should be stored in a way that keeps them protected from manure splatter or other sources of contamination.

And especially once the cap or tip has been removed from the syringe, it is very important to make sure that it stays clean.

If it is accidentally dropped, if it is touched by a (gloved) hand, or if it touches anything but the teat end, it should be cleaned with an alcohol wipe, or simply discarded if it is too dirty. (Yes, that’s expensive, but not as expensive as a case of dry cow mastitis.)

Treat Each Teat With Care

When infusing the teats, start with the ones nearest by, and finish up with the ones farthest away, if possible using only partial insertion to avoid carrying/pushing bacteria up into the teat cistern.

It’s probably not a good idea to try to hold all of the tubes needed for treating a cow at one time. Although this may save a few seconds, it is quite likely that one or more of the tubes will get dirty.

Make sure that all the product is infused into the teat. Not only did you pay for all of it, but it won’t be nearly as effective if only half a dose of antibiotic or sealant is used.

If both an antibiotic and a teat sealant are used at dry off, it’s a good idea to rewipe the teat ends between infusing the two products since the teat end may become contaminated.

Yes, it does take a few seconds longer, but remember that done well is better than done fast.

And while dry cow antibiotics should be massaged out of the teat cistern higher up into the gland, make sure that the crew knows that the sealant must stay in the lower end of teat to be effective.

Finally, after the infusions are complete, make sure that every teat is completely covered with a high-quality post-dip, and that the cows are put out into a clean, dry environment.

Periodically, take some time to critically evaluate the quality of your dryoff practices to ensure you have the best chance of curing existing infections and, as important, preventing new infections.

Ernest Hovingh is a Penn State Extension veterinarian.

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