Shining A Light On The Little Things

Shining A Light On The Little Things

Several weeks ago, I was participating in a meeting with a large dairy producer, his herd manager, his herdsman, representatives of the equipment dealership and the herd veterinarian. The purpose of the meeting was to review the milk quality program of this very successful dairy. Clinical mastitis was still an issue even though the dairy has instituted several mechanical and management practices to improve milk quality.


We went over all the recommendations that had been made and the progress of implementing each of them so the owner was up to speed with exactly what was happening on the dairy. He then asked me my thoughts on what was the major issue with the continuing level of mastitis. When I paused for a few seconds before beginning to answer his question, he smiled, looked directly at me and his herd manger and stated: “I guess it is just the little things that we need to do better every day to get this mastitis thing under control.” For most dairies it is the little things, not one single issue, that is causing a high somatic cell count or a high clinical mastitis level.

In this herd, there was an ongoing issue with cow cleanliness when cows entered the parlor, which contributed to dirty liner mouthpieces and therefore a higher infection rate for the herd. The technique for testing mouthpiece cleanliness is to clean the outside of the mouthpiece with an alcohol pad and then use another pad or, better yet, a white towel to wipe the inside of the mouthpiece area. I usually try to get the manger or owner in the parlor when I perform this test so they can actually pick the liners to test and observe the results.

We discussed management issues relating to cleaner cows at length during our meeting. These issues included developing specific written protocols for cleaning the freestall alleyways, the “main street” areas and, more importantly, the entrance and exit area of the parlor. There was also an issue with predip coverage, which was being applied as a spray. After deciding on a new predip application method, with the choices being to begin foaming or to use a power dipping system, a plan was made to modify the udder preparation process.


As is the case on many dairies, when it is dark outside it is difficult to see the teats and udders. All farms that have installed LED lights under the gutter report how much better the cleanliness of the teats becomes when the technicians can actually see the teats and udders.

The issues on this dairy are very typical of many dairies as they work toward better udder health. It is the little things that make the difference between great udder health and mediocre or poor udder health. Identify the milkability issues, develop plans to deal with them, make one change at a time and don’t forget to set up a monitoring program to allow everyone involved to “keep score” as the plan moves forward.

These recommendations apply to herds of 50 cows or 5,000 cows. It is the little things, the commitment level of management and, most importantly, the commitment of the owner, that will determine the success of any milk quality plan. It’s the little things that matter!


David A. Reid, DVM owns and operates Rocky Ridge Dairy Consulting, LLC based in Hazel Green Wisconsin. Dr. Reid has 44-years of experience as a practicing dairy veterinarian and dairy consultant. 

Note: This article appears in the July issue of Dairy Herd Management. 

Taylor Leach
Mon, 07/09/2018 – 08:00


Dairy (General)
Milk Quality
Milk (General)
Profit Tips


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      Dairy (General)
      Milk (General)
      Milk Quality
      Profit Tips

      News Article

      Image Caption
      Parlor lighting leads to cleaner teats.

      Image Credit
      David Reid

    Source: Dairy Herd