One of the most important ways to prevent mastitis is having cows with strong immune systems. Minerals, vitamins and trace elements are very important for healthy immune systems in dairy animals. Organic mineral packages and salt are good sources of minerals and trace elements.
Remember that most dairy grain rations are calculated for higher feeding rates than most homestead cows receive, this means that if you are relying on it for your mineral source the cows are probably being short changed. It is important to first know the first signs of Mastitis.
Your cow could have mastitis if when milking, you notice droplets of blood in the milk or some clots. But before you make a conclusion, examine it more closely and see whether the udder is swollen, reddened and may be painful to touch. The animal could react to the pain with kicks or continuous movement in discomfort. Once you notice this, call the vet.
Nature of disease
Mastitis in dairy cattle is the persistent inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue. It is a potentially fatal mammary gland infection. It is caused by infectious bacteria which is the main cause or noninfectious agents like trauma to the udder. The infection causes major losses as it leads to decreased milk production, premature culling of cows usually the high yielding ones, replacement as well as discarding and downgrading of milk and sometimes death of affected animals.
Wash your cow
One very important aspect of mastitis prevention is cleanliness. Cows need to be kept well bedded and dry. Wet and dirty stalls and pens are breeding grounds for bacteria which cause mastitis. Mud is another place bacteria that causes mastitis loves to live. Keep their udders out of the mud whenever possible and by all means use adequate amounts bedding. If possible, wash your cow.
Proper udder prep at milking time can really cut back your cases of mastitis. Especially when teats are dirty, you should use an udder wash and a clean wash cloth or paper dairy towel. You should also pre dip with a teat dip solution. Leave it on for at least 30 seconds and wipe it off with a clean paper towel or clean cloth towel. Never use a towel on more than one cow. The most important thing about udder prep, that is often overlooked, is cleaning the teat ends. The end of a cow’s teat is recessed and mud and manure builds up there. If using a machine, don’t leave it on too long. As soon as you’re done, dip the teats with the teat dip again, making sure that you get good coverage.
What are some of the signs of mastitis? Some of the common signs of mastitis are a hard or swollen quarter, off colored or watery milk, and clots and puss in the milk. Cows may also go off feed (poor appetite) and have a decreased milk yield.
Remember that Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland or udder characterized by changes in milk and the udder.
It is a complex disease caused by any combination of; bacteria, fungi, viruses, yeast, physical and chemical injury to the udder. It is also one of the most common problems a farmer can encounter affecting small holder farmers.
It leads to loss in production when milk is discarded for being unfit for consumption due to contamination, reduced milk yields, veterinary costs, and culling or death of the animal. Prolonged use of antibiotics for management ultimately becomes counterproductive due to the development of bacterial resistance, thus prevention is left as the only viable option. Apart from the various control strategies.
In order to determine if your cow has mastitis, ask your vet to conduct the California Mastitis Test.
Prevention of Mastitis
Mastitis can either occur as a detectable infection with pronounced clinical signs known as clinical mastitis or a subtle infection known as sub clinical mastitis.
Sub-clinical mastitis is most common but clinical mastitis leads to severe reduction in milk production. Cleanliness is known to reduce mastitis cases. So how can this cleanliness be achieved?
First, milkers need to wash their hands thoroughly before and after milking each cow and use a separate clean udder cloth or a disposable tissue for cleaning each cow. It is also important to treat a cow just before the beginning and during the dry period known as Dry Cow Therapy. It is done after the last milking of the cow before the dry period. This makes use of antibiotics and teat sealants to kill any bacteria that could occur as reserves during the dry period and therefore cause mastitis in the next milking season.
Another important precautionary measure to take is Post-Milking Teat Dipping treatment. This is the most effective in stopping the spread of mastitis in a herd and preventing bacteria from entering the teats soon after milking when the teats sphincters are still open.
Dip every quarter individually. Culling chronic mastitis cows is recommended for cows having four or more episodes of mastitis in one lactation period. In cows with some healthy and some infected quarters, the chronically infected quarters should be cauteriaed/killed and then one will continue milking the healthy ones.
Start with clean animal
A proper order of milking cows should be executed in which the milker always starts with the clean animals/herd. Cows with mastitis should be milked last and the same should apply to any infected quarters. Regular laboratory testing for mastitis in the herd is also advised and this usually involves testing to know if any bacteria are in the milk.
Mastitis is effectively treated by use of antibiotics, administered either through injection (systemic) or infused into the teat canal (intrammamary). Milk from cow under medication is not marketable due to drug residues until the recommended milk withdrawal period is completed. Because of that potential danger, there is need for antibiotics in mastitis treatment to be handled by qualified individuals to avoid drug resistance in animals and humans who consume milk from mastitis animals undergoing treatment. Milk from such animals should be discarded and not even fed to calves.
Before treatment, a bacterial culture and sensitivity testing should be conducted to ascertain the drugs that the bacteria in question could be most susceptible to. Every farmer should insist on these lab tests as they reduce chances of antibiotic resistance. The most commonly used drugs in mastitis are intemammaries. When administering antibiotics using the intramammary method, first empty the udder of any milk and clean the tip of the teat. When done with that, place the tip of the tube into the teat and squeeze all the antibiotic inside then massage the teat and udder to distribute the medication. In conclusion, mastitis is a disease that affects production leading to losses for small holder or large scale farmers, this calls for continuous testing of herds before milking or at regular intervals.
Thus, high levels of hygiene are fundamental when it comes to prevention. While your animals are grazing in the field, the teats should be clean and not soiled with any dirt. Clean housing and good milking techniques help to ensure that the environment stops build-up of pathogens to avoid injury to teats and the udder. In summary, prevention entails:
- Maintaining hygienic environment in the milking parlor, proper drainage in the cattle pens and proper waste disposal.
- Avoiding sharp objects in the environment which could injure cow’s teats and udder.
- Avoiding dirt accumulation around the udder by clipping hairs regularly.
- Maintaining appropriate milking techniques that entail squeezing and not pulling the teats while milking.
- Disinfecting teats before and after milking by teat dipping.
- Wiping the teats using separate towels for each cow to avoid cross infection.
- Drying off the cow approximately 60 days before expected calving using dry cow therapy so as to prevent infection.
- Milking healthy animals’ first and infected ones last. New animals should be milked separately.
Essential oils of peppermint, tea tree and oregano applied to the outside of the udder can be very helpful in treating mastitis. Always use a carrier oil when doing this. Using pre-made creams that have essential oils in them can also work quite well. It is also important to keep the infected quarter stripped out. This will starve the bacteria that might be causing the problem. In cases where the infection is making the cow ill, and causing her to go off feed, striping out the quarter will keep the toxins that are bothering her to a minimum.
Aloe Vera in the liquid form can be given orally at a dose of 300 cc twice a day for three days. Aloe is an immune booster and will help the cow fight off the infection.