26 February 1999

Management changes a priority to curb mastitis

Changes to the UK dairying

and use of organic minerals

to ease mastitis and improve

fertility in dairy cows were

issues at last weeks Alltech

conference in Birmingham.

Simon Wragg reports

CHANGES to dairy management including three-times-a-day milking must be a priority to cut risk of mastitis, according to Glos-based vet Roger Blowey.

He told delegates that mastitis risk has risen 12-fold since the 1960s despite cases of clinical mastitis falling from 120 cases/100 cows a year to 40 cases. Mastitis has risen in line with yields, milk flow rates and intensification.

"While Staph aureus infection has fallen from 55% to 5% with improved milking hygiene and better dry cow therapy, Strep uberis and E coli – environmental mastitis – have risen," said Mr Blowey.

Producers must improve husbandry and management of cows to reduce mastitis risk, he said. Taking into account udder characteristics during breeding and culling out highly susceptible cows will play their part. Providing roomy and comfortable cubicles which are well bedded will also reduce risks outside the parlour. Milking equipment must also be checked to ensure teat damage – which increases risk – is cut, advised Mr Blowey. Vacuum, pulsation, liner condition and ACR action should be checked regularly.

Teat cleaning should rely on dry or medicated wipes, he suggested. Where latex gloves are worn, it only helps limit risk of infection when they are cleaned between each cow.

He urged avoiding using towels soaked in buckets of diluted disinfectant because it takes 30 minutes for disinfectant to kill Staph aureus. Washing teats with water should also be avoided. "Water is the kiss of death in mastitis terms. When it is sucked into clusters it hits teats at 40mph and increases risk of infection."

Quicker milking is not the answer to reducing mastitis. But where cows yield over 9000 litres it may be worth considering three-times-a-day milking. Teat canals were flushed more frequently, and when machines were not causing teat end damage it could reduce mastitis risk, he said.

"The cow is good at tackling infection in the udder, but learning to manage, house and feed cows to reduce mastitis risk is vital. Mastitis is inevitable, but we must do all we can to limit infection access to teat ends."