Mastitis control in drug-free regimes

12 October 2001

Mastitis control in drug-free regimes

CONTROLLING environmental mastitis without using antibiotics on organic dairy units has meant a move to cubicle housing, even for dry cows, on one Somerset unit.

Shepton Mallet-based vet and milk producer Stephen Turner told congress vets that the increase in environmental mastitis in the first 100 days of lactation comes from dry period infection.

For organic units, which do not use routine antibiotic dry cow therapy and suffer a lack of effective teat sealants, loose housing during the dry period increases mastitis risk, he said. On his two dairy units, totalling 150 cows, dry cow mastitis and high cell counts in lactation were also a problem, even when bedding with care every day.

But this has been reduced by housing all cows, including dry cows, in cubicles. "We put in prefabricated cubicles and the reduction in mastitis and straw use have easily repaid the costs."

He has also stopped using lime on cubicle beds to reduce mastitis. "Lime dries out beds, but it also dries out teat skin and that reduces the speed of teat closure after milking. We now use a commercial hypochlorite releasing powder."

The benefit of these measures is a 12% annual incidence of mastitis, well below the national average.

When clinical cases do occur, homoeopathy is now his treatment of first resort. Conventional drugs are permitted, but withdrawal periods are extended so each case treated costs about £140 with the loss in milk sales.

"We achieve good results with homoepathy and also use it for pain control, which is lacking in conventional vet treatments," said Mr Turner.

"We have reduced cow temperature in 12 hours by stripping out cows and using homeopathy. You cant achieve that with conventional drugs."

However, nosodes – sold as an aid to mastitis prevention – are of minimal value, he added. "There is no benefit in this form of prevention and that is backed up by a study in Eire."

Calving boxes also provide bacterial challenge at a high risk time for the cow, warned Mr Turner. "We clean out boxes before each cow, put down sand then straw and remove the afterbirth immediately to reduce this challenge." &#42


* Cubicles reduce mastitis.

* Homeopathy successful.

* Care needed at calving.


&#8226 Cubicles reduce mastitis.

&#8226 Homeopathy successful.

&#8226 Care needed at calving.

Careful management of cubicle housing and calving boxes has reduced mastitis, says Stephen Turner.

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