Sarah Grotjan, Extension Outagamie County Agriculture Educator
Cheryl Skjolaas, Agricultural Safety Specialist
Jim Verweyveld, Extension Walworth County Agriculture Educator
Sandra Stuttgen, DVM, Extension Taylor County Agriculture Educator
Ashley Olson, Extension Vernon County Agriculture Educator
Amanda Young, Extension Dodge County Agriculture Educator
The use of disposable milking gloves has proven effective in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria during milking. There is some protection provided for the person wearing disposable gloves and therefore gloves may be considered personal protective equipment or PPE. Disposable gloves are also commonly used for other animal health care activities on the farm.
Disposable milking gloves are designed to be used once and then properly disposed of. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has put pressure on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), including disposable gloves, as they are also used for human healthcare purposes. Demand may exceed available supplies in some Wisconsin locations. Farms may consider reusing disposable milking gloves.
Here are a few items for farms considering their disposable glove options:
Determine priority use of disposable gloves
It can be easy to wear gloves for many tasks when containers of disposable gloves are readily available. In the face of shortages, and for overall economic savings, farms should strategize where gloves must be used versus when washing or sanitizing bare hands is safe and appropriate. For example, save disposable gloves for the milking process and change practices for feeding calves to not use disposable gloves. When opting to reuse gloves, we suggest that the farm team meets to set parameters around how long gloves are going to be used and how they will be cleaned for reuse.
Extend the Use-time of Gloves
Review farm practices for when gloves are changed. Tears and leaks in gloves should stay as the top reason for changing gloves, followed next by when they must be removed for personal breaks, especially when eating, drinking or using the restroom. During milking, rinse and disinfect gloved hands periodically with teat dip or disinfecting solution as they become overly soiled, after finding clinical cases of mastitis, or after forestripping subclinical infected cows.
Review with users how to properly don (putting on) and doff (taking off) gloves for their best protection and reduce chances of developing tears in the gloves. Use a clean towel to dry hands. Gloves go on easier over dry hands.
Consider types of disposable gloves
Latex gloves are low cost and commonly used. They are associated with allergies and therefore, many industries are replacing their latex gloves with nitrile gloves. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber compound that has a higher puncture resistance than any other glove material. Nitrile also has a better chemical resistance than latex.
Most nitrile milking gloves are available in 4 mil and 8 mil thicknesses. Thicker gloves be are more durable and do not sacrifice the sensitivity needed during milking. They can be used several times before discarding. These gloves may be cleaned prior to reuse using procedures discussed below.
Gloves are available in various sizes and need to provide a comfortable and proper fit. While it may be possible to purchase gloves in sizes that would not be typically ordered, gloves that are too small or too large are prone to tearing. Overly large gloves may also get sucked into the inflations during milking. Replace gloves that tear and properly dispose of them. Prior to disposal, used gloves should be turned inside out.
When handling chemicals, read the chemical label or safety data sheet (SDS) to determine the type of glove needed.
Reuse of disposable gloves
Review and post your glove use protocol, setting parameters around how long gloves are used.
For personal biosecurity, EACH WORKER should reuse their own gloves. Consider using a drying rack or clothesline. Use clothespins to secure gloves while drying and label each pin with the user’s name.
Follow these cleaning procedures for reuse of disposable milking gloves:
- Rinse gloved hands in cool, clean running water for 20 seconds.
- After rinsing, thoroughly wash the gloved hands in warm water with a mild soap or detergent for 20 seconds
- Remove gloves without turning them inside out.
- Pat dry any excess water from the outside and inside of the gloves.
- Air dry gloves on drying racks or a clothesline – DO NOT machine dry with heat or expose gloves to a heat source other than direct sunlight.
- Lastly, the worker must thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, followed by drying them. Alternatively, hand sanitizer may be used after handling and cleaning used gloves.
Always start the milking shift or any other farm task with clean, dry hands. Workers are to wash their hands with soap and water or sanitize them before donning gloves. It is easier to don gloves with dry hands. Using a powder may aid in applying gloves to hands, but proceed with caution! Powders may be associated with skin and inhaled allergies; workers must be careful of their own sensitivities and those of their co-workers.