Influences of Switch Trimming on Cleanliness and Udder Health in Dairy Cattle

Document Type : Research/Original Article


1 Department of Clinical Science, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Bu Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran

2 Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Bu Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran

3 Milk and Livestock Company, Kermanshah, Kangavar, Iran


The periodic trimming of the long hairs growing at the distal end of the tail -switch trimming- is humane alternative of tail docking. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of switch trimming on somatic cell count (SCC), California mastitis test (CMT) and udder cleanliness of lactating cows in a free-stall dairy farm. In the present study, 219 healthy, pregnant Holstein cows were enrolled. All cows were randomly allocated to either trimmed (T) (n=107) or control (C) groups (n=112) prior to entering the calving pen. The long hair in the tail switch of the cows enrolled in group T was removed completely by a hair clipper machine, while the tail hair of the animals enrolled in group C remained intact. After two months, all studied cows were evaluated for udder cleanliness and health. Udder cleanliness scores (UCS) were significantly associated with switch trimming of the tail (P=0.0129). Both trimmed and control cows showed significant difference in UCS of 2 and 3 (P≤0.05), though the difference in other UCS was not significant. No significant difference (P=0.41) in SCC between groups was identified. Comparing the CMT scores of front, rear, or all udder quarters showed that the frequency of a CMT score of 0 in group T was significantly higher than in group C (P≤0.05). Reversely, the frequencies of Trace and 2 scores of CMT for rear and all udder quarters in the control group were significantly higher than the group T (P<0.05). The results of this study show that switch trimming may be suggested to improve cleanliness and udder health of dairy cows in free-stall housing systems.


Albright J.L. and Arave C.W. (1997). The Behaviour of Cattle. CAB International, New York.
Barnett J.L., Coleman G.J. and Hemsworth P.H., Newman E.A., Fewings Hall S. and Ziini C. (1999). Tail docking and beliefs about the practice in the Victorian dairy industry. Australian Vet. J. 77(11),742-747.
Eicher S.D. and Dailey J.W. (2002). Indicators of acute pain and fly avoidance behaviors in Holstein calves following tail-docking. J. Dairy Sci. 85(11),2850-2858.
Eicher S.D., Morrow-Tesch J.L., Albright J.L. and Williams R.E. (2001). Tail-docking alters fly numbers, flyavoidance behaviors and cleanliness, but not physiological measures. J. Dairy Sci. 84(8),1822-1828.
Farhangfar H. and Naeemipour H. (2007). Phenotypic study of lactation curve in Iranian Holsteins. J. Agric. Sci. Technol.9,279-286.
Hamann J. (1991). Milking hygiene, milking and mastitis. Dairy Food Environ. San. 11,260-264.
Johnson A.P. (1992). Mastitis control without a slap in the face. Pp. 146 in Proc. 24th Ann. Conv. Am. Assoc. Bov. Prac., Orlando, FL.
Khaleghi M.H., Zerehdaran S., Hassani S., Farhangfar H. and Eghbal A.R. (2013). Genetic analysis of milk production trait
      using test day model with fixed and random regressions in Holstein dairy cows of Yazd province. J. RumminRes. 1(1), 13-30.
Matthews L.R., Phipps R.A. and Verkerk D. (1995). The effects of taildocking and trimming on milker comfort and dairy cattle health, welfare and production. Anim. Beh. Welf. Res. Cent.1-25.
McCrory J. (1976). Do cows’ tails help to cause mastitis? J. Agric. 74,341.
Phipps A.M., Mathews L.R. and Verkerk G.A. (1995). Tail docked dairy cattle: fly induced behaviour and adrenal responsiveness to ACTH. Proc. NZ. Soc. Anim. Prod. 55, 61-63.
Reneau J.K., Saylor A.J., Heinz B.J., Bye R.F. and Farnsworth R.J. (2003). Relationship of cow hygiene scores and SCC. Proc. Natl. Mastitis Count. 42, 362-363.
SAS Institute. (2004). SAS®/STAT Software, Release 9.1. SAS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC. USA.
Schreiner D.A. and Ruegg P.L. (2002). Effects of tail docking on milk quality and cow cleanliness. J. Dairy Sci. 85(10),2503-2511.
Sargeant J.M., Leslie K.E., Shirley J.E., Pulkrabek B.J. and Lim G.H. (2001). Sensitivity and specificity of somatic cell count and California mastitis test for identifying intramammary infection in early lactation. J.  Dairy Sci. 84(9), 2018-2024.
Stull C.L., Payne M.A., Berry S.L. and Hullinger P.J. (2002). Evaluation of the scientific justification for tail docking in dairy cattle. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 220(9), 1298-1303.
The Humane Society of the United States. (2012). "An HSUS Report: Welfare Issues with Tail Docking of Cows in the Dairy Industry". HSUS Reports: Farm Industry Impacts on Animals. Paper 19, Available at:
Tucker C.B., Fraser D. and Weary D.M. (2001). Tail docking dairy cattle: effects on cow cleanliness and udder health. J. Dairy Sci. 84(1), 84-87.
University of California Cooperative Extension. (1998). Dairy care practices.  Availabl in:
Weary D.M., Schuppli C.A. and von Keyse M.A.G. (2011). Tail docking dairy cattle: responses from an online engagement. J. Anim. Sci. 89(11), 3831-3837.
Wilson G.D.A. (1972). Docking cows’ tails. Pp. 158-165 in Proc. Ruakura Farm. Conf., Ruakura, New Zealand.
Zadoks R.N., Allore H.G., Barkema H.W., Sampimon O.C., Wellenberg G.J., Grohn Y.T. and Schukken Y.H. (2001). Cow and quarter level risk factors for Streptococcus uberis and Staphylococcus aureus mastitis. J. Dairy Sci. 84, 2649-2663.
Volume 5, Issue 3 - Serial Number 3
September 2015
Pages 731-735
  • Receive Date: 05 July 2014
  • Revise Date: 11 September 2014
  • Accept Date: 15 October 2014
  • First Publish Date: 01 September 2015