Cold Weather Strategy

(Reviewed: January 20, 2017)

We live in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the country for a reason – we can handle the cold, wind and snow Mother Nature throws at us every winter, but what about our cows? They have not chosen to brave our brutal winters, yet they must endure the elements.

A common concern during harsh winter months is the condition and care of milking cows.  Specifically, the condition of teat ends in relation to preventing new mastitis infections, keeping SCC low and stopping recurrent mastitis infections.

One may be surprised at the list of benefits to be had by keeping the teat ends healthy.  It is hard enough to keep up with teat end health during the other three seasons, so it is vitally important to have a game plan to survive the winter season. Why survive when the cows can thrive?

The harsh temperatures and winds winter brings can threaten the condition of teat end health the most.  Teats are less susceptible to temperature than they are to wind. Just like us, cows prefer a cold winter day with no wind verses a cool winter day with wind. When wind chills drop between 00F – 250F, frostbite is feasible and when wind chills drop below -250F, extra precautionary measures need to be taken as frostbite is probable.

There are several solutions to help prepare and surpass cold wind chills:

  1. Windbreaks
    1. Construct temporary windbreaks in areas near the return alley and open walk ways.
    2. Supply additional windbreaks for cows if they are turned outside for any amount of time.
  2. Teat Dips
    1. Store teat dips in a heated/insulated building to prevent freezing.  If product had previously frozen, make sure to mix before use.
    2. Consider using a winter teat dip.  Winter teat dips containing higher emollients will add extra conditioning to keep the teat ends from drying out or cracking.
  3. Dipping Procedure
    1. Do not stop dipping! Dipping of teats has been proven to help decrease the risk of transferring contagious pathogens and reduces the occurrence of new infections. Just because it’s cold out, does not mean all bacteria are dead.
    2. Make sure teats are dry before leaving the parlor.  This can be achieved by blotting the end of the teat to remove excess dip or simply by waiting until teat ends are dry before turning out the cows.
  4. Protocol Creation and Implementation
    1. Set up an on-farm protocol detailing what to do during times of low temperatures and high winds.
    2. Ex:  When temperature is x degrees, we will do
    3. When wind is x speed, we will do

Whichever solution is used to get the desired end result is great.  Each individual needs to find what works best for their farm as the effect of winter can vary based on barn layout, stage of lactation and the amount/type of environmental exposure endured.

If you have any questions about how to implement a cold weather strategy to keep your cows healthy this winter contact ANIMART’s Milk Quality Specialist, Leslie Gravatt.

Leslie Gravatt
Milk Quality Specialist
leslieg@animart.com
920.342.3067

About Leslie Gravatt

Milk Quality & Laboratory Specialist
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