Teat end conditions

Teat end problems may increase mastitis and make cows harder to milk Teat end evaluations need to follow a standardized format We’ve included guidelines to identifying possible solutions

Teat end problems make cows harder to milk and may be related to increased mastitis. The obvious question at the dairy is: what is the cause of the teat end problem? Those who deal with these issues have learned the hard way that there are many possible answers. Each has to be evaluated to determine if it is a possible contributor.

Determining if there is a problem:

Teat end evaluations need to be made of at least 20% of the herd if a large herd and possibly the whole herd if a small herd. They need to be scored using a standardized method and then summarized to determine if problems are common enough to be considered abnormal. The Teat Club International has published guidelines for doing the evaluation and they help standardize the evaluation and allow an objective assessment.

One of the most common complaints is often described as inverted or everted teat ends. Frequently this description refers to the development of a keratin ring buildup around the teat orifice. It often is a smooth ring similar to a callous buildup. Occasionally it develops rough keratin projections that stick out the center. The exact cause of this is likely the opening and closing of the liner around the teat end but why it is more pronounced in certain herds is unclear. Certain cows appear more prone to this condition than others.

Teat end rings that are not cracked and where the teat end is not sore, generally are not related to increased mastitis problems. When the teat end develops cracks, sores or erosive type sores there is an increased risk of problems. These sites are ideal locations for bacterial growth and potential problems.

Identifying possible solutions:

It is necessary, when the herd is experiencing teat end problems, to consider a list of factors that may be at work. By reviewing the list, certain issues may be readily eliminated while others have to be looked at in more detail. This approach allows all items to be considered and not over looked.

The list should include the following issues:

  1. Milking system settings
    • Include system vacuum level, claw vacuum at peak milk flow, vacuum stability and vacuum fluctuations during milking, vacuum reserves.
  2. Pulsator performance
    • Evaluate under static and dynamic conditions
    • Include a full evaluation of the wave-form and the time spent in each of the four phases.
  3. Automatic take-off settings.
    • Check for excess machine on-time after the majority of milk has been removed.
      • Excessive over-milking has been implicated in teat end problems but customer preferences vary.
    • Milking 2X or 3X also plays a role.
    • There is no NMC standard for automatic take-off settings so they must be tested on each farm by making incremental adjustments and observing the results.
  4. Is the correct liner being used for the job.
    • Check for correct length, a mouthpiece free of any distortions, and is the liner recommended for the vacuum settings and flow rates in the herd.
      • Various liners perform differently depending on system conditions so it is important that the liner is compatible with the system settings.
  5. Are teats frost bitten?
    • If so, evaluate winter housing conditions and post milking procedures, especially when wind and cold are combined.
  6. Are teats physically injured?
    • If so, check stall dimensions and conditions for problem areas.
  7. Determine what relationship, if any, may exist between cows exhibiting teat end problems and stage of lactation, shape of teats, production level, season of the year etc.
  8. Are there teat end sores that may be viral in origin?
    • Both Herpes Mammilitis and Pseudocowpox viruses can produce lesions that appear on the teat end.
  9. Are chemicals being used in the stalls that might damage skin?
    • On rare occasions, disinfectants that can be irritating upon contact with skin are used in stalls.
      • Lime directly in contact with skin can cause dry, cracked skin.

Preventative maintenance:

A milking system evaluation following the NMC format should be performed routinely to identify any mechanical problems that might lead to udder health problems. A trained technician using proper equipment and following the procedures described by the National Mastitis Council’s “Procedures for Evaluating Vacuum Levels and Air Flow in Milking Systems can evaluate an NMC check”. This evaluation procedure allows any problems to be indentified and corrected.


Winston Ingalls

Winston Ingalls
17 articles



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