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Tech Talk: Teat Sealing

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Vicki Jensen

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09 April 2021

With our veterinary technician teams kicking into gear for winter, we find out what they are up to in preparation for teat sealing season.

Every year, our teat sealing operations grow as our clients continue to choose us to seal their heifers. Heifer teat sealing is key to give heifers the best possible start to their milking life. Research has shown that by not teat sealing your heifers, there is a significant increase in the risk of clinical mastitis post-calving.

Heifer teat sealing is probably the single most effective intervention we can perform to improve animal welfare on farms. With our experienced vet technician teams, we are cracking into preparations for the winter season and teat sealing. We caught up with one of our teat sealing leads, Vicki Jensen, to find out more.

How are preparations going for the 2021 season?

We have 7 teat sealing trailers across VetSouth. Preparations start in February which keeps us pretty busy, making sure the trailers are ready to crack into the season in late April. This involves trips to the engineers and the mechanics, these trailers do get worked pretty hard over the season so we need to make sure they are ready and safe to use.

We also have to get trucks ready, stock to order and also do training. We do driver training and refreshers with the trailers. Our managers are also busy hiring the new recruits, winter can see our tech teams double in size. We also have a few gym sessions pre-season so the first few weeks aren’t too much of a shock to the system!

Where do you go?

We base ourselves mainly out of the Winton and Gore clinics, but from Tapanui to Tuatapere, we cover most of Otago and Southland. We do have teams that head up to Central Otago and Te Anau for a few weeks too so we can head to grazing blocks there. They can be long weeks working away from home, but it's great to be able to offer our services to our clients here, even though their animals are grazing elsewhere.

What do you enjoy about it? It looks like pretty hard work!

Everyone gets stuck in and works as a big team. We have some tunes on and have lots of laughs and banter throughout the day. Bringing a decent lunch always helps! Naughty heifers and getting pooped on is just part of the job. Working with different farmers every day is good value too!

Why is teat sealing so important?

Conditions down in the South mean that with animals on crop, we want to make sure we are preventing mastitis the best we can. It takes a lot to get these girls to this point, and we want to make sure we give them the best start to their milking career. We all have a background in dairy and know how vital these preventative actions can be.

In 2020, the tech teams were assigned into “work bubbles'' and stayed in those teams until lockdown levels were lifted. This meant wearing masks, maintaining social distance from farmers, driving in separate vehicles and even turning down a shared smoko. (Frequent hand washing is compulsory for teat sealing regardless of Covid-19). But despite the barriers, the teams were successful in teat sealing nearly 36,000 animals. We're stoked with this performance, which when we look back on just the last five years we have 146k successful insertions, avoiding any of the dreaded adverse events.

This year the teams are looking forward to working with farmers again, and of course, sharing smoko again.

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