1990 - Volume #14, Issue #4, Page #22[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
He Clips Udders With A Propane TorchA Wisconsin veterinarian has a no-fuss, no-muss - just don't miss - alternative to clipping hair from cow udders. David Reid of Hazel Green uses a propane torch to singe Hair off in seconds without even touching the udder.
According to a report by Jane Fyksen in Agri-View newspaper, Reid says just about every dairyman who's tried the idea has become a believer. Reid, whose primary work is as a milk quality consultant to dairymen, milk equipment companies and other vets, says a big part of controlling mastitis is controlling the amount of bacteria reaching teat ends. The best way to keep teats clean of manure and bedding, and to make drying the udder easier, is to remove the hair on and around the teats themselves.
Reid says his torch method is faster, cheaper and more effective than clipping and that cows tolerate it better, too. You don't have to tie them down and they don't get nicked when they start jumping around.
Reid suggests farmers get a plumber's propane torch for $10 to $12. The flame nozzle is usually 3/8 to 1/2 in. in dia. Find a No. 45 copper fitting for it and crunch it down so you've got a narrow, even 1/16th to 1/8th in. opening. Then block off the air ports on the torch with aluminum foil so you'll have a cooler, orange flame. The normal hot, blue flame this type of torch produces is too hot. You want a nice orange flame with just a little blue at the edge where the fire starts out of the nozzle.
Do the job before milking when the udder is full and do it when the hair on the udder is dry. Wave the flame 8 to 16 in. away from the teat. It's best to start farthest away and work your way in. Reid recommends burning off all hair within 6 or 7 in. of the teats. If you do it right, the hair should just disappear without starting on fire. You should wear gloves so if the hair starts on fire you can quickly smother it before it reaches the skin.
A $3 tank of propane will do about 40 cows. And out of those 40, Reid says only one pr two will react at all to the torch. Another benefit, he adds, is that clipping normally doesn't get hair on the teats them-selves the way the torch can.
Removing udder hair is one of those "good husbandry" chores that has tended to "go by the wayside as dairy operations have gotten bigger, says Reid But he notes that 60 percent of herds with somatic cell counts under 120,000 clip udders regularly.
If you're nervous about using a torch, Reid says the next best alternative is to buy a cordless beard trimmer. They're not as noisy as conventional clippers, he maintains, and if a cantankerous cow happens do kick and break it, a new one costs less than a set of blades. A beard trimmer will to 40 to 60 cows before becoming too dull.
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