The importance of cow cleanliness to prevent environmental mastitis

Looking at the cows can give the first indication of environmental issues. If a cow looks clean, it means the environment is clean.

Back to: Control of dairy cow environmental mastitis in lactation

Cleanliness scoring

The risk of infection from the environment is likely to be lower if the cow and her environment are clean. If a cow is dirty, it is likely to be at higher risk of infection from the environment.

You can check how clean your cows are by using our Cleanliness scorecards. Cows are scored 0, 1 or 2, based on the cleanliness of the udder, flank (including tail) and the hind legs of the cows.

Ideally, you should score the whole herd, but it is important to score enough cows for your herd size. Watch our video Scoring cleanliness in the dairy herd to find out more.

Bulk milk Bactoscan readings tend to be higher in herds with poorer cleanliness scores.

Top tips for using the cleanliness scores

  • Investigate the causes of very dirty cows (score 2) in the cow’s environment
  • Make changes to help reduce the number of ‘score 2’ cows
  • Regularly score the herd and check whether the changes are improving the cleanliness scores

Cleanliness checks

Dirty udders? Check:

  • Hygiene of bedding
  • Hygiene of passageways (scraping frequency) and yards
  • Lying comfort of the cubicles
  • Manure consistency
  • Shaving or flaming of udders
  • Health of the animals

Less than 5% of cows should have dirty udders. Cows with dirty udders are one and a half times more likely to have a case of clinical mastitis than those with clean udders.

Dirty flanks and tails? Check:

  • Maintenance and cleaning of beds
  • Frequency and spreading of the bedding
  • Lying comfort of cubicles and manure consistency
  • Health of the animals

Dirty legs? Check:

  • Use of a manure scraper
  • Removal of manure from passages where there is no manure scraper
  • Manure consistency
  • Cleaning of the collection and loafing areas

Cow cleanliness can give a clear picture of the risk of infection from the environment. However, clean cows can also be lying in heavily contaminated beds. You cannot see bacteria but they can be present in large numbers in what looks like 'clean' bedding. This can result in a high risk of infection that is not easily seen.

Useful links

Cleanliness scorecards

Scoring cleanliness in the dairy herd

If you would like a hard copy of the Control of environmental mastitis guide or the Scoring cleanliness scorecard please contact or call 0247 799 0069.