As a goat owner, you treat your dairy goats with the utmost respect and care. In fact, many describe the milking process as a meditative ritual. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy on the goats’ teats, especially if enthusiastic visitors try their hand at the art of milking.
In order to keep your goats healthy and ensure the best milk quality for as long as possible, it’s important to learn the basics of teat care.
Cleaning the entire teat, udder, and your own hands can prevent injury, contaminated milk, and the bacterial build-up that can cause infections like mastitis.
In this short guide, we’ll dive into the need for teat care and its proper practice.
Why Teat Care Is Important
First things first: why is it so important to care for your goats’ teats?
It goes without saying that rough handling can lead to injuries and cuts. These likewise raise the risk of infection, disease, and other negative consequences for your four-legged friends.
But your goat can develop mastitis even without a visible injury.
Mastitis refers to the inflammation of the mammary glands. This condition can affect goats as well as other milk-producing mammals, like dairy cows.
While stress and surface injury can both produce inflammation, the number one cause of mastitis in goats is bacterial buildup as a result of improper teat care.
Signs of Mastitis include:1
- Less milk production
- Changes in milk color or texture
- Swollen or reddened teats
- Teats that are hot to the touch
- Does with decreased appetite
- A change or cessation of nursing
While a little less milk may only seem annoying at first, mastitis can cause serious issues not just for the affected doe but also for her young.
If it goes too long without proper treatment, mastitis can lead to Blue Bag or Hard Udder.
- Blue Bag eventually leads to a blue hue to the teat and a watery or bloody discharge.
- Hard Udder leads to the complete cessation of milk production over time. It won’t come with any obvious changes to appearance.
In extreme cases, these conditions can both lead to death.
That’s why it’s so important to consult your local veterinarian if any of the above mastitis symptoms arise.
However, there’s plenty you can do to reduce the likelihood of an infection in the first place.
Steps to Proper Teat Care
Cleanliness is essential in preventing mastitis.
You already know how to wash your hands, so we won’t try to school you on that!
Beyond your hands and any other milking equipment, teats should be cleaned before and after milking. But how?
There are several potential methods.
As the name implies, “teat dipping” refers to the practice of dipping teats in a cleaning solution (often consisting of water, alcohol, and other antimicrobial agents). Needless to say, teat dip solutions should be administered using a clean teat dip cup or sprayer.
- A pre-dip solution can be used to clean the teat ends in preparation for milking. A great solution for this is Vetericyn’s Antimicrobial Utility Spray. After milking is completed, a post-dip solution is recommended to clean around the teat area and condition the teat end for next time. Vetericyn’s Antimicrobial Utility Gel is a great post-dip solution for goats.
- If you live in a cold climate, dry the teat after dipping to prevent issues like frostbite. If you use a reusable cloth towel, wash it between uses. Paper towels are another option for drying.
If you live in a temperate climate, you can leave the solution on until the next milking.
However, many goat owners find their does are less-than-amenable to the dipping process. If your goat doesn’t enjoy a dip, you could risk a kicked-over bucket—or worse.
Luckily, there are modern alternatives.
Spraying as a Form of Teat Dipping
Instead of physically dipping the teat, you can also use a topical spray such as Vetericyn Antimicrobial Utility Spray.
Teat spraying makes it possible to cover the surface of the entire teat while using less water (and without risking kicks).
The Vetericyn Antimicrobial Utility Gel can be used as a combination cleanser and conditioner.
- Before milking, spray and wipe the teat until there is no visible dirt remaining.
- After spraying, wipe down the teats with a clean rag cloth or paper towel.
- Milk as usual.
Repeat this process after milking, leaving the solution on to continue its work if you live in a temperate climate.
Other Practices for Ensuring Cleanliness
Beyond teat dipping or teat spraying, take other steps to reduce the risk of mastitis causing bacteria.
- Keep a clean space for your goat by regularly changing out bedding, washing feed and water bowls, etc.
- Be mindful of how you remove nursing young off the udder to avoid potential harm to the mother’s teat.
- Use milking and teat care as an opportunity to inspect the teats and udders for any potential wounds or redness. As soon as you notice an issue, consult your veterinarian.
Vetericyn’s Modern Tools For Happy Goats and Livestock
Protecting the goat’s teat is the most efficient way to guarantee quality milk.
At Vetericyn, we’re leaders in safe, non-toxic, non-irritating products for goat care and animal husbandry. Our Antimicrobial Utility Gel is ideal for disinfecting goat teats while providing needed moisture. Beyond teat care, it can also be used to treat topical wounds across a wide range of livestock.
Best of all, its easy spray-on application bottle keeps you and your goats happy and safe during the cleaning process.
- Washington State University. Best Milking Practices for Small Scale Dairies. https://extension.wsu.edu/wam/best-milking-practices-for-small-scale-dairies/