The importance of healthy teat ends
Dairy Pipeline: February 2001
Extension Veterinarian, VA-MD Regional College of Vet Medicine
A recent paper in the Journal of Dairy Science (December 2000) reported the results of research which examined the development of teat end lesions, specifically looking at the roughness and thickness of teat end calluses in the first 14 weeks of lactation. The researchers found that pointed or round teats had more teat end calluses than inverted teat ends and that teat end calluses tended to develop rapidly in the first 8 weeks of lactation. A number of factors were found to be associated with the amount of callus on the teat end - the front teats showed more callus formation and roughening than the rear teats, and as the milking unit on-time increased there was a higher probability that the teat end would become rough. This research reinforces the importance of maintaining healthy teat ends. A number of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, can colonize and grow very well on damaged teat skin and in teat end lesions. This can increase the probability of developing an intramammary infection (mastitis) with these bacteria, especially since the normal defense mechanisms of the teat canal (such as it's keratin lining and muscular sphincter) may also be compromised. Although teat end lesions have also been observed on cows which are hand-milked, the interaction of the cow and the milking equipment can have a significant impact on the health of the teat end. Although the mechanical functioning of the equipment (such as pulsator function and vacuum level) is important in maintaining healthy teat ends, of equal (or greater!) importance are the 'human factors' - the proper preparation/stimulation of the cows and the timely application and prompt removal of the milking unit at the end of milking. Given the importance of healthy teat ends, it might be a good idea to spend some time examining teats and evaluating the milking procedures in your herd. If you're not sure what a normal teat end should look like, if you're not sure that you're really doing a proper job of 'prepping' the cows, or if you think your pulsators may be malfunctioning, consider asking an 'expert', such as your veterinarian, extension agent or equipment dealer, for some help.