20 October 1995

Treat coliform differently…

Implications of tough new milk hygiene standards and benefits of mastitis vaccines, were among the issues put to a 250-strong audience at the annual British mastitis conference, Stoneleigh. Jessica Buss reports

COLIFORM mastitis is more common in low cell count herds and toxic cases require aggressive fluid therapy to avoid death.

That was the view of Somerset-based vet Martin Green speaking at the conference.

He has studied the disease for three years and said this severe form of mastitis, which causes blood poisoning and commonly death, responded poorly to antibiotic therapy.

He recommended treating cases by stripping out cows, using oxytocin to assist milk letdown, intramammary antibiotics and nursing.

"In toxic cases the cow may be treated with fluid therapy two or more times," he said "But in severe toxic cases the success rate is low."

Mr Green believed he could predict the cows chance of survival to 80% accuracy and then use the information to decide when treatment was worthwhile.

Clinically the disease is seen as a quarter infection with a hot, swollen udder, or with loss of appetite and reduced milk yield. In severe cases of coliform mastitis the cow would have sunken eyes, low body temperature and would show signs of weakness.

He maintained that methods of preventing the disease had not been proven in field conditions but that keeping cell counts high would not help. "Control of coliform mastitis can be helped by a clean, dry living environment, good udder hygiene and a dry cow diet to prevent milk fever," he said.

&#8226 Mastitis control begins with the NIRD/CVL five-point plan but can be helped by housing management and cow tracks that keep stock clean.

&#8226 Using antibiotics to treat coliform mastitis can have a poor success rate. New treatment methods, such as fluid therapy, and careful nursing, may prove more successful.

&#8226 Poor maintenance of milking machines is highlighted in a survey where only 6% of machines tested complied to the British Standard. Follow maintenance guidelines to prevent poor udder health which can be caused by faulty parlours.

&#8226 Fore-milking cows helps identify abnormal milk before it enters the bulk tank – and wearing rubber gloves stops the milker spreading bugs from cow-to-cow.

&#8226 Teat dipping with adequate emollient (softener) will keep teats free from sores.

&#8226 The California Mastitis Test is useful to detect high cell counts or mastitis when clots are seen in an in-line mastitis detector, but not in the quarter. However, it is of little use soon after calving or near drying-off when the cell count rises naturally.