15 September 1995

Big environmental mastitis rise threat

ENVIRONMENTAL mastitis could rise this year on dairy units where high straw costs tempt producers into using less for bedding.

But this would be false economy, as the British Cattle Vet Associations Peter Orpin stressed at a meeting to announce results of a Schering-Plough Animal Health mastitis survey.

It showed that 74% of the 200 dairy farmers who replied to the survey had lost a cow through coliform mastitis caused by enviromental bugs such as E coli.

Schering-Ploughs Tony Fraser said the results reflect that parlour-transmitted mastitis has reduced from 135 to below 30 cases for each 100 cows since the introduction of the five-point plan for mastitis control in 1968. But levels of environmental mastitis are unchanged, affecting 6% of the national dairy herd. "An average UK dairy farmer loses two cows every five years from toxic mastitis," he said.

\"Those which do recover are likely to be culled, with 56% culled after infection and 19% at the end of their lactation."

"Coliform mastitis is costing an average of more than £3000 a 100-cow herd. These costs include vet visits drugs, discarded milk, lost production and replacement costs."

To help reduce environmental mastitis incidence, Mr Orpin suggests the five-point plan is revised to include a sixth point. This should stress the need to control the cow environment by correct housing design and bedding management (see box).

Emergency treatment

"When a cow has coliform mastitis that turns toxic it should be treated as an emergency," he said. "But early diagnosis is difficult as the signs in the cows udder are subtle, although the cows temperature is raised.

"The toxin causes damage to the cows liver and she will die of shock and liver failure. Early therapy will save the cow and the lactation. The same therapy 12 hours later may be too late."