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Are You Dealing With Udder Scald on Your Dairy?

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
August 26, 2015

Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Are You Dealing With Udder Scald on Your Dairy?

By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (08/19/15) — There are many components to milk quality, mastitis management, and udder health.  A virtually unknown piece of that complex puzzle is udder scald. 

Udder scald is a moist, foul-smelling dermatitis found between the udder and upper thigh or between the udder halves of cows.  Very little is known about the exact cause of udder scald.  Dermatitis found between the udder and the upper thigh is often present in early lactation, thought to be related to skin damage caused by the extra pressure against the upper thigh due to udder edema.  Udder scald is most frequently found in first lactation cows.

A recent University of Minnesota and Illinois collaborative study has shown that this condition in early lactation causes high milk losses. Milk production losses averaged 681 pounds for each cow having this condition.  In this study, 82% of the udder scald cases were in first calf heifers and the average days in milk at diagnosis was 10 days.

Because of its relatively hidden location, udder scald is generally not noticed until it is a big problem. What can be done to lessen or prevent udder scald?  There are three main components. 

First, control udder edema.  Contributing factors are overfeeding grain, excess salt in dry cow rations, and high potassium forages.  Controlling these nutritional factors will help greatly, especially for first calf heifers.

Another piece to consider is hygiene, which is important for the prevention of mastitis and postpartum uterine disease as well as serious skin lesions.  Keeping close-up, maternity and fresh cow pens clean and dry is important. 

Lastly, prompt treatment of the skin lesion will greatly reduce the impact of this problem.  This means thoroughly examining the udder at and even before calving. Checking with your veterinarian for treatment specifics is advised. Various combinations of topical disinfectants, astringents or topical antibiotics can be effective when these infections are diagnosed early.

If you have further questions about udder scald, visit and search for “udder scald.”


Emily Wilmes
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems - Livestock
(320) 255-6169
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