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New research brings good news for dairy cows

1 February 2005

New research brings good news for dairy cows

By Janette Busch

Mastitis is a disease that can cause considerable economic losses to the dairy farmer and compromises the welfare of the cow.

There has been concern that the shape and colour of the teats of the cow may predispose some cows with certain types of teat characteristics to mastitis.

The results of this research show that there is no association between the frequency of infection and teat shape, teat-end, teat type or pigmentation of cows’ teats.

Mario Lopez-Benavides and his team from Dexcel, in association with Dr Jon Hickford from the Agricultural and Life Sciences Division at Lincoln University, carried out this research.

What they did was to visually score the teats for teat shape, teat-end shape and teat pigmentation, and came up with the five most frequent combinations. Then, each week for fourteen weeks, samples of the quarter foremilk were collected for bacteriological analyses and somatic cell count (SCC) - this count is an indication of teat health.

In total, 439 teats were scored (blind teats were excluded) and 5032 milk samples were analysed for bacteria and SCC.

The most common teat shape was cylindrical (51%), followed by the funnel (32.5%), with the rest (16.5%) being made up of three other shapes.

“This work is important because it means that farmers do not need to be concerned that the shape of their cows’ teat will predispose them to developing mastitis and the associated problems with withholding milk and loss of income this causes.

The dairy industry will also get a boost because some bulls who produced cows with suspect teat shapes, but who were otherwise top producers, will now be able to be used.

“This research was good, practical science that will benefit farmers in a very tangible way,” says Dr Jon Hickford, who supervised the project.

The research was a small part of a wider doctoral level study by Lopez- Benavides looking at ways of diagnosing susceptibility to mastitis and potential ways of breeding for resistance.

Originally from Colombia, Mario is now working as a scientist at Dexcel in Hamilton.


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