News / Blog

Cold Temperatures Bring Concern on Teat Health
January 18, 2016

With the temperatures dropping below zero many farmers are concerned with teat end cracking and increased incidence of mastitis.

Year round we need to be applying germicide and moisturizers to the teat end to help promote health and prevent mastitis, but in the winter it becomes even more important.  UW-Extension Marathon County Dairy & Livestock Agent Heather Schlesser shares tips regarding choosing a winter dip to use.


When choosing a winter dip to use there are several choices:


  1. Normal lactating cow dips which contain 5-10% conditioners
  2. Barrier dips require 20 minutes to dry and tend to be harder to get off at the end of the winter
  3. Winter dips (For use in cold temps when there is a threat of the teats freezing or dehydrating quickly). There are two main types of winter dips:
  • Dry powder – hard to apply, can wick moisture on teat. Need to cover the teat completely to fully protect and moisturize the teat.
  • High emollient dips have > 50% skin conditioner (like antifreeze). These dips minimize initial freezing risk post milking because they are slow to evaporate. However the teat is oily/ wet for 2-6 hours.
  • With both types of winter dips you need clean stalls because they can wick bacteria onto the teat and they cost 2-3 x more than normal lactating cow dips.
  • Keep in mind winter dips are only more effective than normal lactating cow dips when temperatures are really cold.
  • Chlorine Dioxide must be mixed daily and creates a drop on the teat end that keeps the teat end soft and hydrated. Chlorine Dioxide is a very effective germicide but it is very costly.
  • Quit dipping – Not a very good option. The teats are still wet after milking and have no contagious mastitis control. Without skin conditioner the teats dehydrate quicker as well.
  • Salves – usually do more harm than good. Salves lead to a higher colonization with Staph aureus, coat or trap infection, provide for spreading of contagious mastitis. Salves also lead to greasy hands and equipment. The grease attracts dirt and debris. They are water based therefore offering little or no protection. If you must use salves use ones with a proven germicide, use them sparingly applying to the teat end only. Remember that teat cracking is due mostly to changes in temperature, if you can minimize temperature changes you can minimize cracking. Teat end cracking can occur very rapidly, usually within two to three days. Temperatures don’t have to be less than 00F to see teat end cracking. Even the “best dips” have variable effectiveness depending on the situation or conditions in which they are used. Therefore it is important to take into consideration your circumstances when choosing a dip and making changes.


To help minimize cracking of teats:

  • Windbreaks: if wind < 5 mph, -200F can be tolerated
  • Feed and house indoors where possible
  • Avoid drafts/humidity
  • Avoid direct wind chills post milking if possible
  • Temperature changes are devastating
  • Remember even the best machine is an irritant/stressor to the cow-so want to maximize let down and avoid over milking.


If cracking does occur:

  • Minimize other stressors that exacerbate problem
  • Keep teat disinfected/health/soft
  • Minimize secondary bacterial infections
  • Do not use salves-can help breed bacteria
  • Keep in mind Staph aureus love wounds.  Having cracked teats amplifies the chances of getting Staph aureus by 100% even if you do not have any cows with Staph aureus.  Good teat health depends on excellent nutrition to support the immune system.  Fluctuating temperatures lead to fluctuating intakes, so if you can minimize temperature changes you can minimize fluctuations in feed intake and teat end cracking.


UW-Milk Quality promotes an integrated, team-based approach to best manage udder health and milk quality.  Producing high quality milk is not a one-person job.  It takes farmers and their local dairy advisors to be able to evaluate, manage and improve milk quality.  At UW-Milk Quality, we develop tools and resources to help dairy producers meet their milk quality goals and increase farm profitability.

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Fall 2018