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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Cloth Towels: "Cents-ible" for Udder Preparation

Dairy Pipeline: April 1999

Ernest Hovingh
Extension Veterinarian
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Virginia Tech
(540) 231-5234

The proper and 'cents-ible' use and cleaning of cloth towels for udder preparation. Many dairies in Virginia use cloth towels for udder preparation prior to milking. Many producers find that reusable towels are superior to single-use disposable paper towels for scrubbing and drying the teats in preparation for milking. From an environmental perspective, reusing cloth towels is preferred over using disposable paper towels, since much less solid waste is generated. Also, it can be shown that using cloth towels is economically justifiable -- even if the cost of a washer (and dryer) is included in the calculation. Of course, proper udder preparation procedures must still be followed when using cloth towels: this includes using a freshly laundered towel for each cow at each milking, and ensuring that the complete teat - including the teat ends - are well scrubbed and completely dried. This will ensure that the inflations are placed onto clean, completely dry teats when the milking units are applied, and that liner slips will be minimized. In order to further reduce costs and to provide a more 'workable' towel, some producers do not completely dry the cloths after they have been washed. Research from Washington State University suggests that forced hot air drying is not necessary if the cloths have been washed in hot water (164 F) with an adequate amount of detergent. Conversely, it was found that if a cold water and detergent wash was utilized, the towels required forced air drying in order to minimize the chance of the towels harboring bacteria - which could result in a case of mastitis. After the cloths are laundered, they should be stored in a location where they will not become contaminated before being used. A clean, dry pail or 'garbage container' with a tight-fitting lid will provide such a storage spot. The use of cloth towels instead of disposable paper towels is economically and environmentally justifiable, and provides for a superior cleaning and drying action. Proper attention to detail will also assure that they are properly cleaned before being reused.

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