Saturday, July 20, 2024
General Agriculture

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats

Animal teat management remains a key factor in maintaining the well-being of any dairy animal as it ensures the teats are disease-free. As such, teats must be kept clean and healthy to reduce risks of infection and milk contamination. Well managed teats are free of mud, dung and damaged tissues or sores.

Animal teats can be infected due to poor handling during milking, particularly when using hands, using faulty milking machines, injuries, muddy and wet surroundings, over exposure to direct sunlight causing sunburn and viral and bacterial attacks.

Do you know that Quality milk production begins with feeding your dairy animals’ good fodder to using clean milking equipment? However, while many farmers adhere to the two factors for maximum profit, they forget about offering proper care to the cow’s teats.

How to Clean Animal Teats

Proper cleaning involves washing every teat with water and drying using paper towels, mainly before and after milking. Low pressure running or flowing water and use of disposable towels provide the most efficient ways to effectively clean the teats.

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
Animal teat Sores (cow / cattle)

The disposable towels minimize the risk of transferring infections to other teats supposing one is infected. Dry, clean piece of cotton cloth/towel can also be used, but they are not encouraged due to hygiene reasons. If they are the only option, then strictly use one piece per animal, wash and rinse with an effective disinfectant after every milking exercise.

Before milking, teats should be wiped completely dry to reduce chances of mastitis and milk contamination. In machine milking, dry teats will hold better onto the teat cups resulting to efficient milking and less damage. Where hand milking is done, the milker’s nails should be short to reduce the chances of causing cuts on the teats and hands should be thoroughly washed and disinfected.

As part of exercise, massage the teat and udder to stimulate milk let-down reflex resulting in faster flow of milk. After milking, apply milking salve then dip each teat in dip-cup to help control bacterial infections like mastitis. Sometimes the teats can be coated with mud or dung, in this case, use running water as you rub them gently until the dirt comes off. Then dry with towel.

Read Also: Reasons why some Cows don’t Expel their Placenta after Delivery and How you can help hem out

Tools for Livestock Care and Treatment

To take good care of animals, to diagnose if animals are diseased and to treat animals there are some tools that can be useful and practical to have within reach In the following some of the more common tools are listed which are widely available within your location.

Important tools for good care of animals: Not all the mentioned tools are strictly necessary, but come in useful in emergencies or when the veterinarian is not available.

(1) Thermometer – check body temperature

A thermometer is very useful to check body temperature. A veterinary thermometer is very cheap and can be found in most agro-vet shops. It is an essential tool for the serious livestock farmer to help her or him in judging animal health.

Normal body temperature varies a little bit during the day and according to climate, as can be seen in below table.

If the body temperature is significantly (<0.5-10C) higher or lower than indicated below, there is usually a problem to be solved. Body temperature in healthy animals

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
(c) Adapted from Blood Radostits Henderson  
Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
Measuring the body temprature of an animal
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha  

(2) Mastitis testing tools: Strip Cup and California Mastitis Test (CMT)

(a) Strip Cup

A strip cup is a very useful tool and a must for all dairy farmers. Milking the first few strips into a strip cup will show if there are any lumps present indicating beginning or advanced mastitis, which should be controlled urgently. It is a tool that should be in use in the milking parlour of every serious dairy farmer. If actual strip cups cannot be found, a normal cup with black plastic tied onto the top can be used instead. The main thing is to observe the quality of the first milk streaks when starting to milk.

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
A farmer testing the udder for mastitis by using a strip cup. 
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha  

(b) California Mastitis Test (CMT)

A more efficient tool for early detection of mastitis is the California Mastitis Test (CMT). This test consists of a paddle with 4 cups, one for each quarter. Hold the handle in one hand (the handle representing the tail of the animal). Then milk a streak of milk from each quarter into the corresponding cup of the padddle (Front-Left, Front-Right, Hind-Left, Hind-Right) and remembering that the handle of the paddle points towards the tail of the cow.

Next add a roughly equal or slightly higher volume of test solution from the CMT bottle and gently rotate the paddle to mix milk and test solution. (Please follow instructions on the CMT bottle for diluting the test solution to working strength before use). If the mix of milk and test solution stays liquid, the quarter is healthy. But if the mix shows varying degrees of stickiness or sliminess this is an indication of mastitis in the quarter where the milk came from. (That?s why it is important to remember which teat or quarter was stripped into which cup of the test paddle!)

California mastitis test kits are sometimes available from agro vet shops, but more often have to be ordered. Although affordable and very useful they are not yet widely used. 

For larger farms, dairy processing enterprises and veterinary clinics there are (more expensive) electronic testers indicating the cows somatic cell count. 

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
California Mastitis testing kit
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha

Read Also: Risks in Purchasing a Pregnant Cow

(3) Hoof trimming tools

In some areas and especially where the ground is soft, the hooves of animals grow faster than normal exercise can wear them down. Hoof trimming becomes necessary in order for the animal to be able to walk normally.The problem of overgrown hooves is particularly important for cows kept in zero grazing that do not exercise or walk on pasture at all. Also donkeys working on rough ground must be trimmed regularly to keep the hoofs in normal shape.

Deformed hoofs makes normal walking difficult and painful for the animal. The legs may twist in different directions. The hooves become deformed and soft and prone to infections like foot rot. Overgrown long hooves are also dangerous for the udder because they may damage the teats when the cow stands up. An animal that only walks with difficulty and pain and has infected hooves has low animal welfare and cannot be a productive animal. 

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
Hoof trimming knives
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha  

Hoof trimming is however a specialized procedure and proper instructions and training from qualified livestock officers will be extremely useful for any livestock farmers. Offering hoof trimming as a paid service is a profession in Europe and could also become an income generating activity for keen young people who train on hoof trimming. 

Hoof trimming knives are usually available from most well stocked agro veterinary shops but if not so, any good sharp knife can assist. In addition to hoof trimming knives professional hoof trimmers will also make use of more sophisticated tools like a hoof pincer (for clipping the dew claws), hoof shears (for cutting overgrown edge of the claw), toeing knife and a hoof rasp. Electric angle hoof grinders are available in Europe.

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
A hoof pincer
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha

(4) Glass slides for making blood smears

Blood samples are very useful for examining diseases in cattle. Many diseases such as ECF, Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis are caused by organisms which will show up under the microscopic in a good blood smear.

Farmers only need glass slides, a needle or fine knife and a bit of training to make blood smears. Glass slides are available from pharmacies and from slme ago-vet shops, they are cheap and help in getting a diagnosis from a vet who does not even have to visit the farm. Treating a cow against the wrong disease will not only cost you the drug but also the value of the whole cow if it dies.

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
4. Glass slides for making blood smears 
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha  

Read Also: Cow Milk Production Guide

(5) Other useful tools

  • Bandages and clean cloths for cleaning wounds and covering them and for holding broken legs in place
  • Bottle for giving medicine by mouth. If a glass bottle is used, it is useful to put a rubber tube over the end to stop it breaking
  • Container for sterilizing equipment. A cooking pot with a lid will do. Sterilize equipment by boiling it in water
  • A sharp knife or scalpel. Scalpels have sterile blades that can be thrown away after use
  • Pen and notebook for keeping records
  • Rope. Ropes are essential for any livestock keeper! They are very useful for tying up animals, for making halters to lead animals during transport; fine clean ropes (sterilised in boiling water) can also be useful when assisting a cow with difficult birth
  • Soap or soap flakes – for washing hands and arms and for washing the cows rear end when assisting with difficult births
  • Syringes and needles for injection. With the very great distance between vets, skilled farmers can learn to do basic treatment before the vet is called. Most useful sizes are 10ml, 20ml, and 50ml. Some syringes can be boiled to sterilize them for reuse – others cannot be boiled so need to be thrown away after use
  • A syringe without needle is useful for measuring liquids such as dewormers or medicines given by mouth, and for flushing wounds and abscesses
  • Castration rings – mostly for goats and sheep but can also be used for small new born calves
Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
Burdizzo Castration Forceps 14″
  • A Burdizzo castrator (no blood) is the best and cleanest tool for castrating bulls, rams and bucks – farmers can share in the costs of buying this tool from an agro-vet shop; two different sizes are available (14″ for bulls and a smaller size for sheep and goats). The Burdizzo should be used on the young animal. There are Burdizzos for animals of different sizes. You should always remember that the Burdizzo is a valuable instrument and keep it clean and oiled. Do not drop it.
  • Needles and stitching material (thread = suture) for stitching wounds.
  • Tape measure for measuring animals to estimate their weight. When treating animals it is very important to know the approximate body weight in order to give correct dosage of medicine
  • A Trocar for making a hole into the rumen to treat serious cases of bloat. Trocars come in two sizes, for cattle and for sheep.
Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
Use of a Trocar
(c) William Ayako, KARI Naivasha  

The trocar has an inside tube or canula, which is left in the wound and anti-bloat medicine (?Stop Bloat?) can be directly administered through this tube/canula into the stomach. Even a sharp knife can be used in emergencies where animals are close to dying. 

Animal Teat Management and How to Clean Teats
A Bloat Trocar

Read Also: Effect of Tropical Climate on Animal Parasites, Vectors and Diseases


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with several years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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