A few easy fixes you can put in place to avoid mastitis and other teat infections on your farm!
If you have read previous episodes of our blog or if you manage a farm yourself, then you are aware of how easily udder infections can occur in your herd. What you may not know, is that there are certain small measures you can take to prevent this.
Hands act as a vehicle for bacteria
Look at your hands: their lines, folds and maybe even cracks present the ideal environment for bacteria to hide in. Additionally, the more cracked they are the harder they are to keep them clean. Furthermore, it is proven that the Mastitis-causing bacteria can survive on the human hand for up to 3 days! So it is important that you pay attention when handling infected cows udders, and it is vital to correctly clean your hands after to avoid contaminating further members of the herd. However, sometimes even this is not enough.
Wearing gloves, helps preserve teat health
Over the course of the last 40 years, the standard milking routine has undergone significant and irreversible change. With this the standard milking protocol has also changed, which has resulted in the more stringent health guidelines despite the growth of the average herd size. The need for a barrier between the human hands and the animal’s udders is now a “must” and should be written in the standard operating procedure of every farm.
A study* on dairy parlour environments showed that 50% of the sample group of operators hands were hosting harmful Bacteria. After having washed them with disinfectants, the bacteria level decreased but still 30% of them remained. It is easier to clean gloves than to clean hands! The same research showed that when operators used gloves and dipped them in suitable disinfectant, the manual transfer of pathogens from cow-to-cow reduced. Moreover, if you are in doubt of gloves’ hygiene after you have disinfected them, you can simply discard and change them with a new pair. The same is not possible with hands obviously!
Gloves are also useful as they help improve the hand conditions of operators and above all, they are a fairly cheap as a prevention tool! 75% less bacteria can be found on used gloves than on bare hands. When you compare the cost of mastitis and the cost of a pair of gloves, it seems to be a simple decision! Due to their low cost, we recommend it is not best practice to re-use the same pair multiple times as this could make them brittle, meaning they are easier to cut and tear, which would bring back all the problems associated with bare-hand milking.
Choose your milking gloves right!
It may take a while to familiarise yourself to using gloves so it’s important to choose a type that can preserve the touch. It would be better if the glove you choose can:
If the milker is comfortable with the choice of gloves, then they will wear them gladly. Some types also have moisturizing substances inside, which may help to preserve the operators’ hands from the harsh environmental conditions in which they work.
We may be wrong, but we cannot see any bad points associated with wearing gloves while milking, so we expect to see the gloves are a must rule among all the standard operating procedures of every farm we touch!
*National Institute for Research in Dairying in England
Date: 22 April 2020