Dairy farmers must invest time and effort in checking the front of teats during milking to catch ischaemic teat necrosis (ITN) early in order to have any hope of curing it.
That’s the advice from herd manager Calvin Otto, who has worked on five large dairies across the south of England since 2004 and has seen the effects of ITN on every unit.
Annual cases have been low, usually about two to three on herds of 400 and more, and up to two on 200-300 cow herds.
Thakeham Farms Facts
- 215 pedigree Holstein Friesians
- Twice-a-day milking
- Sand bedding
- Silicone liners
Cases have led to either loss of a teat or forced culling and have been seen in herds milked twice and three times daily.
The condition has arisen whether silicone or rubber liners were used and on units using sand, sawdust and envirobed.
Currently there is no established cure for ITN but Mr Otto, who is now herd manager at Thakeham Farms, West Sussex, for owners Tim and Joanna Binnington, has developed a protocol to detect the condition early and then treat it in all four teats.
So far his technique is having good success.
Thakeham Farms’ ITN protocol
- Heifers calved in blocks.
- Inspection of heifers in week one and two after calving
- Early-stage ITN identified
- Hands are always washed, to prevent spread
- Cow/heifer noted and moved to straw bedding as this is less abrasive than sand
- Inspection carried out and udder grease applied before milking
- Removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue (debridement) built in to milking routine
- If ITN persists, milking intensity is reduced to once a day
Mr Otto says: “It’s very important to do a visual check of the bag, especially at the front of the teats, as you can’t detect a lesion here if you are cleaning and milking a cow from behind.
“If you do find anything you can then start debridement and greasing early on, which is key to curing it.
“We apply an udder grease before and after milking and if it gets really bad we’ll try and limit the milking to once a day to relieve the udder and help healing.”
This protocol has helped Mr Otto save cow 3529 Thakeham Goldfinger Harriet, which suffered from a very severe case of the disease.
“She was our worst case with ITN on all four quarters; it was really, really bad,” he says.
“I was very disappointed when she got it. It took a lot of hard work and time, but we cured it in every quarter and, other than a slight scar on the front right quarter, she is perfectly fine now.”
Mr Otto says cases can go on to make a full recovery and the condition has no effect on milk yield once cured.
“She went on to do over 8,000 litres as a heifer and more than 10,000 litres as a second-calver and is now being dried off for lactation three.”
Six measures that beat ITN
- Find it early – check the front of the teats as this is often where ITN starts
- Reduce pressure on the bag – switch to softer bedding if on sand, try once-a-day milking
- Udder grease – apply before and after milking
- Debridement – remove scabs to allow oxygen to new tissue underneath
- Focus observations on early-lactation cows and heifers
- Target freshly-calved heifers