Clostridia in the milk can lead to late blowing, a cheese defect. Clostridia are ubiquitous, deriving from both the farm environment and the feed ingested by the cows, and are transferred into the milk through faecal contamination. Our aim was to investigate the effect of different in-parlour practices on the content of anaerobic spore-forming bacteria in milk, and to monitor the variation in spore content in the feed and environment. The experiment, conducted in an experimental dairy during autumn, was repeated in exactly the same way for two consecutive years. The experimental design applied three different milking routines in three consecutive 7-d periods: forestripping alone (F); forestripping and post-dipping (F+Post); pre-dipping, wiping, forestripping and post-dipping (Pre+F+Post). Teat skin swabs and samples of feed, faeces, bedding materials and milk were collected for microbiological analyses. The dietary forage of the lactating cows included maize silage, which, in both years, was found to have the highest level of clostridial spore contamination. Pre-dipping with a detergent/emollient solution, and drying with a disposable paper towel, proved much more efficient in reducing spore contamination than forestripping alone, both on the teats (1·30 vs. 2·20 log10 MPN/swab; P < 0·001) and in the milk (1·82 vs. 2·47 log10 MPN/L, P < 0·02), while post-dipping had little influence on spore count. The standard plate count in milk was significantly lower with Pre+F+Post treatment than with F (3·80 vs. 4·51 log10 CFU/mL, P < 0·01). The teat preparation procedure did not influence the lactic acid bacterial levels in the milk, which is very positive in that decreased lactic acid bacterial content can lessen raw milk cheese quality.