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Winter is just around the corner

Before long the leaves will begin to change and as much as I would love to press the pause but-ton on our beautiful fall surroundings, winter will be here before we know it. Although we are not the northern-most state on the map, Virgin-ia dairy producers are still faced with cold and windy conditions for several months of the year, usually starting in December. During these months, it is especially important to keep in mind a few key management factors related to milk quality.

First of all, it is imperative to monitor water heaters and ensure they are maintaining water temperatures. A quick way of determining whether the water in the parlor is hot enough and whether there is enough hot water is to test the temperature of the dump water. The dump water during the wash cycle should read a minimum of 120°F. Water that is not hot enough and/or insufficient water volume will result in improperly cleaned milking equipment, which may result in abnormally high bacterial counts in milk, including PI counts.

With winter also comes the age-old question “should I continue post-dipping teats during the cold months”. Assuming that the udder is dry, teats of healthy animals lacking edema are not typically affected by the cold in the wind-protected conditions found in Virginia free-stalls. However, when the temperature, ac-counting for the wind chill, is below -25°F, pre-cautions should be taken to avoid frostbite on teats. It is imperative to provide ample dry bed-ding for the cows to lie on during these harsh conditions. Furthermore, a windbreak would significantly reduce the risk for frostbite. In terms of teat dipping, a few considerations may be made. The cessation of post-dipping all to-gether will still not provide a dry teat because of the thin layer of milk present on the skin. There-fore, the risk for frostbite is still present. One possible solution would be to apply the post-dip in the parlor, allow the dip to remain on the teats for 30 seconds, and then blot the teats dry. This would allow an appropriate kill time to reduce the load of contagious pathogens on the teats, but also when releasing the cows back to the free stall, would provide them with dry teats, thus reducing the risk for frostbite. There are also a variety of winter teat disinfectants on the market -everything from a dry, powdered dip to those with high emollients. These are also viable options to the traditional dips, but the same pre-cautions should take place if the environmental conditions are harsh enough for frostbite. Fur-thermore, any liquid teat disinfectant could freeze, which may cause the active ingredient to precipitate out. Once a dip has frozen, check with the manufacturer as to the appropriate steps to take.

In summary, although the winter months are often thought of as the best time for milk quality, producers in VA still experience elevated bulk tank SCC. In fact, based on the recent SQMI pro-ject, the lowest bulk tank SCC values are seen in March and April. Therefore, considerations and precautions are warranted in the winter. It is important to provide animals shelter from the wind, consider blotting teats on the very cold and windy days, and monitor the function of the wa-ter heaters to ensure the equipment is appropri-ately cleaned after each milking.

Source: Dairy Pipeline

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