Questions and Answers About Pre-Dipping

View this article in Spanish:Preguntas y respuestas sobre el uso del pre-sellado



Many mastitis control experts advocate pre-dipping. It is one more weapon dairy producers have in their arsenal against mastitis. Many producers have adopted the procedure and have noticed a significant impact on reducing clinical mastitis and somatic cell counts. Other producers have observed minimal impact. The following discussion is aimed at answering many of the common questions posed by producers.

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What is pre-dipping?

Pre-dipping is the practice of applying a germicidal solution to the teats before milking machine attachment. It is not a substitute for the other aspects of good pre-milking sanitation. It will help ensure that the udders are clean and dry before machine attachment and will replace the use of an udderwash.

What is the purpose for pre-dipping?

Teat dips are applied to the teats to kill bacteria that become attached to the teats between milkings. It also aids in the removal of small amounts of soil which may be present.

How long should the dip be left on the teats?

The germicide should be left on the teats for at least 30 seconds. This ensures that the teat dip has adequate contact time. Teat dips require at least this amount of time to effectively kill the bacteria. The practice will not be fully effective if the teat dip is removed too soon after application.

Can I milk the cows without removing the pre-dip?

No. Unacceptable residues will result if the teat dip is not removed before attachment of the milking machine. This could result in the loss of one’s permit to ship milk. Remove the dip using a single-service cloth or paper towel just before attaching the milking machine.

How clean must the teats be if I pre-dip?

Organic matter rapidly deactivates the active compounds in teat dips. This reduces their effectiveness. The teats must be clean before applying the pre-dip to ensure that the germicide is effective. This does not mean that you must closely inspect every teat to remove every small speck of soil. But you should remove any loose soil which is present. Extremely soiled teats should be cleaned prior to applying the pre-dip. Short hair, as opposed to long hair, on the udder aids in the removal of soil and minimizes the amount of soil present. Clipping or singeing can be used to keep the hair short.

Besides being clean, the teats must be dry. Water on the teats and udder dilutes the teat dip and often carries organic matter and bacteria to the teat end. This also reduces the effectiveness of the dip.

When should pre-dip be applied?

Fore strip the cow and then apply the pre-dip. This reduces the chances of recontaminating the teats after pre-dipping, since milkers’ hands can be a primary source of potential contamination. In other words, removal of the pre-dip should be the last step before attaching the milking machine.

How much of the teat should be dipped?

The germicide should cover the entire teat when pre-dipping. Because the entire teat will come in contact with the teat cup liner during the milking process, the entire teat must be sanitized in order for pre-dipping to be effective.

Will pre-dipping slow the milking routine?

It will take some additional time to pre-dip the cows. The amount of time is insignificant however compared with the time required to handle and treat a cow with a clinical case of mastitis. Therefore, the milking time may be reduced after a period of months as the incidence of clinical mastitis is reduced.

Should I consider pre-dipping?

Research shows that pre-dipping reduces the incidence of mastitis due to environmental pathogens. These are the organisms that the cow comes in contact with between milkings. Pre-dipping will not however compensate for a grossly contaminated environment.

Some herds use a pre-wash system in their holding area. This cleans the udders of the cows before they enter the parlor. Pre-dipping is of value in this situation to sanitize the teats before attachment of the milking machine. Otherwise the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) requires that the udder be washed again using an udder wash, which increases the tendency to milk wet udders. The proper use of pre-dipping sanitizes the teats without making the udder extremely wet.

Pre-dipping should be considered by every producer, but especially the producer who has a high percentage of mastitis caused by environmental pathogens. Improve environmental conditions and then begin pre-dipping for maximum effectiveness. Also, include other proven practices such as post-dipping and dry cow therapy in the regime to ensure success in the control of mastitis.

Can I stop post-dipping?

No. Pre-dipping and post-dipping perform two different functions; therefore, it is important that post-dipping be continued. Post-dipping is actually more important than pre-dipping in a mastitis control program. Do not discontinue post-dipping just because you begin pre-dipping. The two measures are complementary by controlling different pathogens.

Which teat dip should I use?

The teat dip which you select should have scientific research which substantiates its effectiveness, just as you would require for a post-dip. Additionally, it should be labeled specifically for use as a pre-dip. There are numerous products on the market that meet these criteria and others that do not. Some dips are labeled for use as pre-dips, some as post-dips and some as both. Just be sure yours is labeled as a pre-dip. If you are not sure about a specific product, ask the salesperson to provide research evidence of its effectiveness as a pre-dip.

What about dipping versus spraying?

Many producers choose to use spray systems for applying pre-dips. This can be effective if done properly. Be sure the teat dip covers the entire teat and not just one side. Angle the sprayers upward to facilitate covering the entire teat with germicide. Dipping should also cover the entire teat, not just the teat end.

Can I eliminate my environmental mastitis problems if I pre-dip?

No. Pre-dipping will kill many of the microorganisms that are present on the teats before milking; however, it will not kill all of them. Some organisms that remain will gain entrance into the udder and cause mastitis. Also, there are numerous other organisms that can cause mastitis besides the ones present at the beginning of milking. Therefore, we cannot eliminate all cases of environmental mastitis; however, we can reduce them to more manageable levels.

What should I do if I must wash some cows in the parlor?

Even under the best of conditions, cows may enter the parlor needing to be washed. Wash these cows carefully, angling the nozzle downward to avoid putting excess water on the udder. They should be dried with a single-use towel and the pre-dip then applied.


Pre-dipping is not a substitute for other milking hygiene practices. Look upon it as an additional practice that can improve pre-milking udder sanitation. The goal of pre-dipping is to kill bacteria on the udder before milking and to assist in the control of mastitis. Properly used, pre-dipping can significantly improve udder health and milk quality.

Author Information

Warren D. Gilson
University of Georgia

Selected References

NMC, 1988. Follow These Recommendations When Predipping.

Nickerson, Stephen C. 2001. Choosing the Best Teat Dip for Mastitis Control and Milk Quality. NMC-PDPW Milk Quality Conference Proceedings. P. 43-52.

Pankey. J.W. 1989. Premilking Udder Hygiene. J. Dairy Sci. 72: 1308.1312.