This study describes the failure of a single jet exit race automatic teat spray (ATS) system resulting in the spread of Staphylococcus aureus infection in a 135-cow dairy herd, which showed an increased herd somatic cell count from 91,000/ml to 554,000/ml over a nine-month period. S aureus was isolated from 34 of 46 high cell count cows. The milking procedures were modified and manual teat spraying was restarted. Bacteriology was used to identify S aureus positive high cell count cows, and first and second lactation cows were treated during lactation. If their cell counts were not reduced, these were then culled. High cell count S aureus cows in lactation three or above were culled. The three-month geometric mean cell count fell to below 150,000/ml within five months. As all replacements were home-bred, S aureus infection must have spread from within the herd itself. All other causes have been eliminated, and this spread is attributed to the failure of the ATS to carry out effective postmilking teat disinfection. The advantages and disadvantages of ATS systems are discussed, especially in relation to robotic or voluntary milking systems.
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