26 March 1999

MAP ROUTE TO BEAT MASTITIS

Tackling mastitis and cell

counts is a never ending

battle, but one which may be

helped by a replacement for

the five-point plan.

Jessica Buss reports

ENVIRONMENTAL mastitis is causing increasing concern on-farm, but a new action plan for controlling spread of the bacteria that cause it may help.

According to ADAS mastitis specialist Ian Ohnstad, this winters mild weather resulted in a high incidence of environmental types of mastitis. Its these cases that the ADAS and Vet Lab Agency Mastitis Management Action Plan – MAP – aims to help control.

Speaking at one of 15 MAFF-sponsored launch meetings, Mr Ohnstad said the six-point plan (see box) was developed to replace the five-point plan developed in the 1970s.

"Most people do 90% of the five-point plan. This has reduced clinical mastitis incidence and cell counts. And although it has reduced contagious mastitis, it hasnt had the same effect on environmental types – such as E coli and Strep uberis," said Mr Ohnstad.

The six-point plan is simple. It has two main aims; to reduce new infections – by hygienic teat management and regular machine maintenance – and to reduce the level of infection in the herd by effective treatment or removal of chronically infected cows.

A key area for reducing mastitis spread is hygienic teat management. To assess how good a teat hygiene routine is, Mr Ohnstad suggested using baby wipes or medicated wipes. After preparing teats for milking, see how dirty the wipe is when rubbed over the teat. Also wipe a cow after milking.

"The milked teat will be cleaner, so that muck must have gone somewhere." Its possible that muck was forced into the teat end during milking, introducing bacteria, he explained. Thats why cleaning the teat before milking is so important. But there are several ways that the teat can be effectively cleaned, such as dry wiping.

However, it may be better to keep bedding clean and dry so cows come into the parlour clean. Bacteria live in muck and soiled bedding from where they can contaminate the teat surface and then enter the teat at milking. Cubicles should have 9kg of fresh straw a day each and straw yards 18kg a cow/day. When winter weather is warm and humid, improve management to cope with those ideal conditions for mastitis, he added.

Using a high-quality teat dip to keep teats in good condition and wearing gloves – which can be disinfected better than milkers hands – can also reduce bacteria spread.

However, although pre-dipping can help reduce environmental mastitis on some farms, results are variable. For that reason, he suggested using medicated wipes. "When you think wipes are too dirty, take a step back and look at housing."

A good milking routine is important, but it will only be effective when followed by every milker on the farm.

VLA vet Adrian Colloff, based at Luddington, Statford-Upon-Avon, Warks, added that preventing bacteria entering the teat when inserting antibiotic tubes was vital. That meant swabbing teat ends with surgical spirit before tubing, but it was rarely practised.

"Some tubes are not effective against E coli mastitis and you can introduce infection when tubing, which could lead to death."

Hopefully, tubing follows early detection of clinical cases, which can be achieved by foremilking. "A Staph aureus cow can pass infection to the next six to eight cows at a milking," he warned. Either milk infected cows last or into a separate cluster, then disinfect that cluster for 10-12 minutes in hypochlorite.

Treatment for staph aureus mastitis during lactation may only cure 25-30% of cases, but antibiotic treatment will help reduce challenge to manageable proportions, he added.

Mr Ohnstad warned that, in his experience, homeopathic remedies remove visible mastitis symptoms but cell counts remain high because infection is not cured.

The dry period offers an opportunity to eliminate old infections that are often not fully cured by antibiotic therapy during lactation, and prevent new infections. But Mr Colloff maintained that it was still important to swab teat ends before tubing as not all tubes are effective against all bacteria.

In the last seven to 14 days of the dry period, he recommends teat dipping every day to avoid environmental infections around calving.

Simple records

Another important area is record keeping, said Mr Colloff. But this neednt be complicated.

He suggested setting up columns with cow identification, date and quarter, then adding two or more further date and quarter columns for repeat cases in the same cow (see panel). This makes it easy to analyse incidence every six months and pick cows for culling, he added.

"But culling is never a substitute for solving underlying problems. Although culling may have an immediate impact, when bacteria are not controlled you will suffer the same problem again in a few years."

Mr Ohnstad added that the final point in the plan is milking machine maintenance and testing. While the machine should be tested at least once a year, there are many regular checks that producers can do.

This includes watching the vacuum gauge when someone puts on clusters – when it moves the pump is failing or too small, or the regulator is poorly adjusted. Changing liners, usually, after every 2500 cow milkings for black rubber liners is also vital. &#42

MASTITIS MAP

&#8226 Hygienic teat management.

&#8226 Prompt identification and management of clinical cases.

&#8226 Dry cow management and therapy.

&#8226 Accurate record keeping.

&#8226 Culling of chronically affected cows.

&#8226 Regular milking machine maintenance and testing.

Simple record keeping

Cow no Date Quarter Date Quarter Date etc

124 2/3 LH 3/3 RH 12/3

33 15/2 LF/RF