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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Mastitis Tip of the Month-- Dipping or backflushing milking units

Dairy Pipeline: September 2001

Gerald M. (Jerry) Jones
Extension Dairy Scientist,
Milk Quality & Milking Management

When removed from a cow, most teatcup liners are contaminated with bacteria. This is one of the four avenues that contagious mastitis infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus, use to move from infected to non-infected teats (the other three being common wash cloth/sponge, milkers' hands, and flies). One of the best controls is to milk infected cows last. However, infected cows have to be identified and that's not always done. Another control is to dip teatcup clusters in reasonably clean sanitizing solution. For many herds, dipping clusters is not convenient. However, in herds where Staphylococcus aureus or mycoplasma infections are present, dipping or backflushing units is a must, especially if the S. aureus infected cows arenšt segregated from other cows. To do this, rinse teatcups in lukewarm water followed by a rinse in a hot sanitizing solution. Hang teatcups for several minutes so they can drain and dry. Teatcup liners must be dry before they are placed on the next cow. The solution must be kept relatively hot and changed as soon as it starts to change color or becomes lukewarm. Unless teatcups are dipped after every cow, identification of positive cows is still a problem because some Staph cows have low somatic cell counts and some cows are intermittent shedders which means that culturing the herd once misses some infected cows. Automatic backflush units are available and may be beneficial in certain dairy herds, and I have recommended them for herds with contagious mastitis problems. The automatic backflush sanitizes teatcups after every cow. One does not have to find an effective means of detecting every case of S. aureus mastitis. Segregation of S. aureus infected cows has been proven to significantly reduce the prevalence of S. aureus mastitis and bulk tank somatic cell counts.

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