The detailed management techniques needed to control mastitis were the subject of an udder health workshop organised by Genus ABS, Zoetis and Dairy Herd Management and hosted by Riada Veterinary Clinic.
Veterinary surgeon, Keith Laughlin, from host company, Riada Veterinary Clinic welcomed the excellent turnout of over 45 clients and reiterated the value of regular milk recording and consultation with the vet to use these records, not only to identify problem cows, but also to establish if there is a pattern to the spread of mastitis in the herd.
This viewpoint was supported by Gary Watson of Dairy Herd Management who warned that the improved levels of somatic cell counts seen last summer were likely due to the exceptionally good weather in the early part of the season and could cause farmers to be complacent about udder health.
Gary gave examples from a milk recording herd outlining how to use some of the key reports such as the Cell Count Exception Report and Dry Period Trend Graph.
He then went on to encourage those already using the Dairy Herd Management service to make full use of the tools available.
In particular he urged producers to allow their vet, nutritionist or advisor to access their online records.
This would allow a co-ordinated approach to herd management from a range of industry experts and could cover not only SCC but fertility, nutrition, herd health etc.
Keith Laughlin, pointed out that very often the manner in which infection is spreading can indicate if the emphasis on prevention should be on the milking routine, or on the cow’s environment.
He indicated that very often it is deficiencies with the dry cow environment that are the source of mastitis cases.
The pattern of spread of mastitis, as indicated by the milk recording data, can often point towards the involvement of a certain bacteria.
Keith stressed that we do not do enough follow up sampling to confirm the cause.
Recent infections give the best chance of getting a reliable result, so the most recent milk recording should be used to identify the cows with ‘new’ and ‘first’ infections.
Having identified the best high cell count cases to sample, the technique for taking samples is critical to the value of the result.
California Milk Test is very useful to identify which is the infected quarter.
The commonest reason for disappointing results is contamination of the sample, therefore hygiene is very important.
The sampler should wear gloves, and the teat should be cleaned and pre-dipped.
The foremilk should then be discarded as it does not give a good representation of the bacteria higher up in the quarter.
The teat end should be thoroughly swabbed with cotton wool balls soaked in methylated spirit.
The sample should be taken into a sterile sample bottle held as close as possible to horizontal to reduce the risk of contamination falling into the opening.
One or two squirts of milk will suffice. Attempting to fill the bottle increases the risk of contamination of the sample. The sample should be refrigerated or frozen until posted.
Clinical cases of mastitis can provide some of the best information, but should be sampled early in the course of the infection, before any treatment has been given.
Sampling technique is the same as for high cell count cases.
Problem cases which have had several courses of treatment do not give good results as the bacteria isolated may not bear any relation to those that initiated the case.
Clients should use their vet to interpret the results of mastitis investigations.
Awareness of contamination of the udder was also emphasised by Stephen Lavery from Genus ABS.
He pointed out that there is no alternative to the five step routine for milking – strip, immerse, dry, apply and disinfect
Step 1, stripping, removes the milk with the very highest cell count from the teat and is also the most effective way to stimulate the cow’s milk let-down reflex.
Immersing the teat in Valiant Foam-Active is then advised for very high level cleaning and bacteria killing action.
It gets to work as soon as the teat is immersed. As a foam product it cleans much more effectively than a liquid and it’s micro –bubbling action gets into all the nooks and crannies on the skin surface.
The foam should be dried off with a single use paper towel.
This is vital to avoid cross contamination between cows.
The final step is the disinfection of the teats and this should be carried out within 30 seconds of the cluster coming away from the cow after milking. The teats should be dipped or sprayed with a Valiant after-milking product such as Valiant Barrier. This product contains a unique combination of anti-bacterial agents, providing up to nine hours of protection. Dual action skin conditioners leave teats smooth with less contours to harbour harmful bacteria.
Aurelie Moralis, Veterinary Surgeon with Zoetis stated that up to 70% of all new intramammary infections are acquired during the dry period.
This should therefore be used as an opportunity for cure through prolonged exposure to antibiotic treatment and the use of Orbeseal® teat sealant to prevent mastitis causing bacteria from entering the teat.
Orbeseal is proven to reduce the incidence of clinical cases of mastitis by at least 35%, even farms with modest mastitis rates will save with every case prevented.