One of the most common problems that causes massive economic losses in dairy farms is Mastitis. This disease results in massive losses to the farmers whose animals are affected. Losses include cost of veterinary care, discarded milk, involuntary culling and yield reduction because of permanent damage to udders. Mastitis is the inflammation of the udder tissue and the mammary glands due to immune response to the infection of the teat canal. Most common bacteria are Staphylococcus aureus. In addition, the disease can also originate from thermal, chemical or mechanical injury to cow’s udder.

The disease can also originate from chemical, thermal or mechanical injury to cow’s udder. Severe acute mastitis can be fatal, and even the cows that recover may bear the consequences for the rest of their lactation periods.

The disease in heifers is a major problem that causes massive economic losses on most dairy farms. When optimizing farm management does not result in a significant reduction of the heifer’s udder health status, the administration of a three-way broad spectrum dry cow product has been shown to be effective in reducing the number of clinical mastitis cases in first lactation dairy cows. It is becoming painfully clear that heifers can also be affected by udder infections, even prior to calving. Approximately 60% of all heifers have an infra-mammary infection at calving. Some 16% of these heifers will suffer from clinical mastitis during their first lactation and 30% of these mastitis cases will occur within 14 days after calving. This results in a reduced milk yield in the first lactation, causing severe economic losses.

Route of infection

Most are the times that farmers ask why heifers are infected when they have never been in contact with milking machines, well they can be affected due to the following reasons;

  • Bacteria on the teat skin.
  • Bacteria in the environment of the heifer.
  • Bacteria transmitted by flies
  • ‘Sucklers’ (animals that suckle other animals) in a group of young stock.

The same bacteria that are found in older dairy cows can be detected in heifers. Most frequently isolated are E. coli, Staphylococci (coagulase negative staphylococci (CNS) and Staphylococcus aureus) and streptococci.

Economic consequences of Mastitis

The economic loss from one single case of clinical mastitis in Western Europe ranges from 200-300 euro. The magnitude of loss depends upon the bacteria involved, the herd’s production level, and the accuracy of veterinarian and farmer in detecting and treating animals with clinical mastitis.

The losses consist of veterinary costs (treatment and visits), the value of milk discarded during treatment and withholding periods, additional farm labor, reduced production for the remaining lactation period, occasional deaths and involuntary culling.

Most clinical mastitis cases occur in the first trimester of lactation. The proportion of heifers with mastitis around calving varies from 30-35%; stress, negative energy status and metabolic disorders are believed to be important risk factors. However, heifers can already be infected several weeks before their first calving.

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Ways of Preventing Mastitis

Mastitis in heifers can be prevented. In the first place by managerial measures that eliminate the sources of infection:

  • Optimize hygiene, starting directly after birth.
  • Reduce the amount of bacteria in the environment (clean housing and bedding).
  • Optimize insect control.
  • Remove ‘sucklers’ from groups of young stock.

In addition, changes that reduce or eliminate risk factors associated with mastitis should be considered:

  • Reduce stress on the animals.
  • Optimize nutrition.
  • Optimize ventilation.
  • Optimize housing.

When the above measures do not result in a significant improvement then the treatment of heifers with a dry cow product can be considered. This treatment should be applied approximately six weeks prior to the expected calving date.

What to consider when starting a dairy farm

Mastitis in heifers is a major problem that causes massive economic losses on most dairy farms. When optimizing farm management does not result in a significant reduction of the heifer’s udder health status, the administration of a three-way broad spectrum dry cow product has been shown to be effective in reducing the number of clinical mastitis cases in first lactation dairy cows.

 

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