Teat canal closure in non-lactating heifers and its association with udder health in the consecutive lactation

Vet Microbiol. 2009 Feb 16;134(1-2):100-5. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2008.09.002. Epub 2008 Sep 11.


Prevention of heifer mastitis is a key element in preventing mastitis. Since pathogenesis of heifer mastitis is not fully understood yet, combating it is arduous. The goal of this study was to examine whether the premature loss of the keratin plug of the teat canal represents an important risk factor for the development of heifer mastitis. 84 dairy heifers (German Holstein) from six high-yielding dairy herds in Northern Germany were examined between March 2005 and June 2006. Each quarter was examined clinically at least three times before calving. If the teat canal of a quarter was open, secretion samples were collected for bacteriological analysis. After calving, four quarter samples were collected during the first lactation. A rapid increase of the proportion of open teat canals was detected in the preparturition period. No teat canals were open till 80 days before parturition, while 60% of the teat canals were open at 60 days before parturition. A time-scheduled infection pattern was observed: during the days 90-61, 60-31, and 30-0 before calving, skin inhabitants (coagulase-negative staphylococci, coryneform bacteria), cow-related, and environment-related microorganisms prevailed, respectively. A total of 77% of intramammary infections encountered at parturition had established previously. No significant association between the duration of open teat canals before calving and the udder health post partum was found. However, the incidence of clinical mastitis during first lactation was influenced largely by the duration of infection ante partum and the mastitis pathogen involved. This study shows that a high proportion of teat canals already opens several months before calving and that opening of the teat canal before calving is an important factor in the aetiology of heifer mastitis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Keratins
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / physiology*
  • Mastitis, Bovine
  • Risk Factors


  • Keratins