Advice for dairy farmers: Inadequate disinfection a common failing

The rate of new intra-mammary infection is very much related to the number of mastitis-causing pathogens present on cows’ teats.

Teat disinfection is designed to reduce the challenge from bacteria, promoting good skin condition and producing quality milk.

Disinfecting teats immediately after milking kills most of the pathogens on teats.

This in turn reduces the chance of those pathogens getting into the udder.

In fact, more than 50% of new infections can be prevented by adequate post-milking disinfection, with an effective disinfectant, immediately after every milking.

Inadequate disinfection, in particular with spraying, is a common failing on many farms.

Dipping each individual teat is more time consuming, but coverage is more effective.

As a guide, when teat spraying, at least 15mls of disinfectant should be applied per cow per milking.

Handling of disinfectant

Store teat disinfectant products in a cool dry area, and do not allow disinfectants to freeze.

Follow label instructions for use.

Do not add additional emollients to products as this may compromise the efficacy of the product.

If there are any farm water supply issues with regard to water hardness, bacteria and/or pH, then ready to-use products should be considered, as opposed to those that require dilution.

What products to choose

Choose products that are licensed to be used for teat disinfection.

Products should be registered under the Irish Medicine Board or the Pesticide Registration and Control division, depending on claims made on the drum label.

Over 90 teat disinfectant products are sold in Ireland, and a list of those products including details of the regulatory status, main ingredients, distributor and recommended use is available on the Teagasc milk quality webpage ( ).

The three main ingredients used in the formulation of teat dip products are iodine, lactic acid and chlorohexidine gluconate, with numerous combinations of the latter two.

While each individual ingredient has been demonstrated to have good efficacy against the contagious pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae, there is limited independent knowledge available on the efficacy of these combination products with different levels of emollients present.

A study is to be undertaken at Teagasc to measure the efficacy of the range of teat disinfectant products sold in Ireland.

Pre and post-milking teat disinfectant products are formulated for different roles, and products are recommended for use as single purpose use or, in some cases, for dual use.

For example, most iodine based products are not recommended for use as a pre-milking teat disinfectant.

A pre-dip product is designed to achieve a high level of kill quickly with minimal, if any, teat conditioning capabilities, as it is only on the teat for a short time.

Post-milking disinfectants are required to stay on the teat surface for as long as possible, with prolonged germicidal action, and to improve teat condition.

If you wish to use one product for both roles, then choose a product that is recommended as a pre and post-milking product by the manufacturer.

Pre-milking disinfection is most effective in reducing bacterial numbers on teat skin when applied to non-soiled teats, and when teats are wiped clean with paper towels at least 30 seconds after application.

Regardless of the pre-milking disinfectant product type used, teats should be wiped clean with paper before cluster application for milking, to avoid chemical residues in milk.

The time of year will also impact on the selection of the most suitable product.

For example, some post-milking disinfectant products have added fly repellent, which is of benefit during the summer months.

Iodine is a very effective post-milking disinfectant but can be severe on teat condition during early spring, especially if weather conditions are harsh.


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