Dip It Don''t cut back on your teat-dipping protocol

April 5, 2009 07:00 PM

Think about buying teat dip in larger quantities for a bigger price break.
As a milk production specialist who visits more than 100 Midwest dairies every month for Land O'Lakes, Dale Heintz knows how closely you're scrutinizing your operation to cut costs.

But one area Heintz and other milk quality experts urge you to maintain is your dairy's teat-dipping protocol. As part of a mastitis prevention program, both predipping and postdipping play a key role in milk quality and price premiums.
"Good milk quality can pay premiums of 50¢/cwt. or more,” Heintz says. "That may not be a lot of your overall milk price, but premiums help pay the bills.”

A good teat dip will kill germs and condition the skin on teats and udders. "It's an insurance policy to ensure milk quality,” says Leo Timms, Extension dairy specialist with Iowa State University.

At $120 per clinical case of mastitis—and even more with subclinical cases—a few gallons of teat dip per cow per year yields a great return on investment, Timms says. "Even so, teat sanitizer shouldn't be wasted,” he adds. "You can save basic dip costs by 20% or more by having your milkers pay attention to details.”

Although employees must work quickly, they should be thorough in cleaning and drying teats, says Jeffrey Reneau, dairy management professor at the University of Minnesota. "Assure complete predip coverage of teat surfaces and allow predip 30 seconds of contact time,” he says. "Remember, whatever bacteria are not removed from the teat surface before machine attachment will end up in the milk.”

How employees apply the dipping germicide is important. Spraying may be convenient and quick, but not all specialists prefer that method.

"I am an advocate of teat dipping versus teat spraying for the simple reason that milkers universally tend to be better at coating the entire teat when dipping and tend to miss a lot when spraying,” says Larry Collar, producer quality assurance manager for California Dairies, Inc., a large processing co-op. "That's not to say they don't miss when dipping also; they just seem to miss less consistently with the dip cup.”

Jason Vavra of Associated Milk Producers Inc., a Midwest processor, agrees. "You see less waste and more bang for your buck with dipping instead of spraying,” he says.

You can do a good job with either, Timms says. "What's important is coverage, consistency and cleanliness.”

A number of teat-dipping devices have been developed that reduce the amount of product spilled, Collar says. These devices also partially reduce contamination prospects by maintaining a limited volume of dip at any one time in the cup. Some even incorporate the spray handle to make the job of refilling easier for the milker.  

"Teat dip is expensive, but not dipping properly or using contaminated dip is much more so,” Collar says. "There is a cost to everything we do. Going to the extreme trying to save a few cents per cow on teat dip may not be the best place to conserve right now.”

Bonus content:

Spanish version

Prepping Cows: Who Needs It?

Get ''Em Clean!

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