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Don’t Forget About Wintertime Mastitis Management

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
December 14, 2016        
Source:  Emily Wilmes, Extension Educator-Livestock
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Don’t Forget About Wintertime Mastitis Management
By Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (12/14/16) — A lot of people, me included, think about mastitis management mostly in the summer.  After all, that’s when we see the highest prevalence of it.  However, we see mastitis every month of the year.  It may not be on the top of the priority list during winter, but it should be on the list nonetheless.  You already know about all of the health and economic impacts of mastitis, so why jeopardize your cows and your bottom line?  You have your typical mastitis routine—dry treatment, monitoring fresh cows, keeping stalls clean, and the like.  However, are you managing for the specific threats and stressors that only winter brings?

First, we know it’s cold.  And when it’s cold, make sure your cows have access to shelter and an ample amount of clean, dry bedding.  Like with any season, the ultimate goal is to keep the amount of stress on your cows low.  Making sure your cows are properly sheltered and that barns have adequate ventilation will keep them comfortable, and will prevent them from needing to use extra energy to keep warm.  Cows can handle fairly cold temperatures; wind chills are what really bother cows and make them use extra energy.  At the very least, keep cows out of the wind.

Providing clean, dry bedding is always on the top of my list for proper management.  It’s especially important in the winter that cows are kept dry and clean.  If they enter the parlor with a particularly dirty udder, it will require more washing.  If the udder is not properly dried, there is a risk of frostbite.  Long hair can also make udders difficult to keep clean and dry.  If you don’t already, consider singeing or clipping udders.

On the subject of udders and teats, teat dip can also put your cows at risk for frostbite.  Of course, you need to dip your cows, so what can you do?  My Extension colleague, Chuck Schwartau, put it best: “Dip but don’t drip!”  If I could rewrite that line, I would say, “dip but don’t drip or skip!”  When the weather is freezing and the winds are howling with below 20 wind chills, you may be tempted to not post dip your cows.  Even in the winter—don’t skip it.

The post dip is too important to leave out, but the way you manage post dipping in the winter may be tweaked a bit.  You might recall that optimum contact time for pre-dip is 30 seconds.  After the 30 seconds, the dip can be wiped off to continue the milk prep routine.  Similarly, a strategy you could implement is to put post dip on for a 30 second contact time, then dry teats before sending cows out of the parlor.  You will still get the protection of the post dip, but won’t run the risk of frost-bitten teats.  This practice will add some time to milking, but it only needs to be implemented in extreme cold weather.

This winter, keep your cows out of the elements and clean and dry, in order to continue combating mastitis.


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