RESULTS of a study which show that each clinical case of mastitis in the UK has an average cost of £313 prompted a lot of discussion at a recent mastitis workshop in Newry.
The workshop was organised by Genus ABS in conjunction with Pfizer Animal Health, Dairy Herd Management and Clanrye Veterinary Clinic.
They outlined the five point plan which has been developed specifically to target and manage a contagious mastitis herd problem.
1.Hygienic teat management
This aspect was dealt with by Stephen Lavery of Genus ABS who pointed out that the aim is to prevent mastitis transferring to new susceptible cows. Key to this is to prevent clusters being taken off one cow with a high somatic cell count (SCC) and being placed onto a low SCC cow. Running a high SCC group and milking them last is excellent if a hot wash with an appropriate disinfection procedure is carried out after every milking. Cluster disinfection after milking high SCC cows attempts the same goal. Pre and post milking teat dipping with a disinfectant such as Valiant which has been shown by research to treat all of the major bacteria is essential.
2.Prompt identification and treatment.
Gary Watson from Dairy Herd Management stressed the importance of identifying high SCC cows, by milk recording, in order to treat them before they become chronic and to prevent them transferring the mastitis to other cows in the herd.
Cows that have had two or more months with an above target SCC should receive treatment. The Dairy Herd Management software analyses all the milk recording data to highlight useful information on individual cell counts and therefore infection dynamics unique to the herd. This identifies critical areas such as the dry cow period, to focus on making changes which will have most benefit in the herd.
3.Dry Cow Therapy.
Mark Little, veterinary surgeon with Pfizer Animal Health emphasised the costs associated with mastitis, pointing out that it is easy to see the vet bill, the laboratory bill and the treatment bill, but it is the unseen costs that are difficult to ascertain and these include a reduced yield due to loss in functional mammary tissue associated with udder damage caused by mastitis.
Treatment was discussed and Mark emphasised that the probability of curing a high cell count cow is higher in the dry cow period than during lactation. There was a good discussion with farmers about the practicalities of drying off individual quarters early whilst the cow is still milking, in order to try to assist with better cure rates.
Clinical mastitis was also discussed as a herd problem. It had previously been thought that a case of clinical mastitis only occurred after infection. Mark pointed out that a significant number of clinical mastitis cases can actually be traced back to infection during the dry cow period. This can be explained by a significant number of cows failing to form an effective teat seal during the dry period.
The two-fold goal of dry cow therapy is:-
Clean Up – use a dry cow antibiotic tube to treat any exiting infection
Seal Up - use of a licensed teat sealant to prevent any new infections
The aim is to have cows calving down with a low SCC. Antibiotic dry cow treatment should be matched with both the culture and sensitivity results and duration of action required. The addition of a teat sealer tube is essential to assist in preventing new infections during the dry period
Veterinary surgeon, Brian Doyle from Clanrye Veterinary Clinic demonstrated the California Milk Test – how to narrow down which quarter is affected in the cow. He went through the procedure to take a sterile milk sample in order to send off to the lab. This is vitally important to find out which bacteria is causing the infection and also which antibiotic is most likely to work. A good sample means that treatment is completely targeted towards the infection present on the farm therefore, there is no guess work in the choice of antibiotic, as the most effective one can be chosen.
4.Cull persistent offenders.
This is to decrease the source of infectious cows. Fewer cows with a high SCC mean fewer cows to transmit mastitis. The final decision on culling should be taken in conjunction with the farm’s veterinary surgeon.
5.Milking machine serviced and maintained.
Ideally liners should be changed at a target of 2000 milkings or six months usage, whichever is shorter. Machine stripping should not be carried out as this causes teat end damage.
Mark Little concluded that if farms are experiencing issues with mastitis then the use of milk records coupled with products which have shown significant success in research results plus advice from the veterinary surgeon is the path to success in containing this disease.
Veterinary surgeons or dairy farmers who would like to become involved in a workshop specifically targeted to mastitis problems should contact Stephen Lavery, Genus ABS on 077 6805 8450.