7 ways to prevent mastitis this milking season
The easiest way to prevent clinical or sub-clinical mastitis cases is through good milking practices.
During the busy calving season, dairy farmers often become complacent and forget the importance of good milking practices.
Also, dairy farmers who may have been milking once-a-day (OAD) for the month of February, will now begin to make the switch to twice-a-day (TAD) and so should be mindful of their milking techniques.
Although, some simple milking practices can be difficult to adopt at times; nonetheless, in a short space of time they can easily become second nature.
1. Wear the correct clothing
This may seem like a very obvious routinely action. However, it can sometimes be forgotten about during busy periods.
Furthermore, after handling a mastitis infected animal, it is vital that your gloves are washed and disinfected (using teat dip) before continuing milking.
2. Present a clean cow for milking
Dirty udders should be washed and dried thoroughly using a paper towel, before attaching the cluster.
Another obvious procedure, but it can be forgotten about when preoccupied by something like an unsettled heifer.
If greater than 5% of the herd is coming in with dirty udders, there is a problem with management before milking. To avoid this, ensure roadways, yards and cubicles are kept to a high standard of cleanliness.
3. Do not over or under milk cows
It is important that cows are milked out fully when milking; as wasted milk equals wasted time.
However, do not over milk cows, particularly freshly-calved cows.
4. Teat dip
Teat dipping a cow after she is milked is one of the most important jobs in the milking process.
A simple test to see if your teat dipping technique is up to scratch is through the use of a piece of paper towel.
Place the paper towel around the teat after teat spraying the animal. A solid pattern should be observed where it was touching the teat. If not, the teat is not being fully covered in the teat spray.
5. Be on the look out for signs of mastitis
Clinical cases of mastitis are clear. However, sub-clinical cases are not. The sooner an animal with mastitis is found and treated the faster the cure rate.
- Clots in the milk;
- Swollen/inflamed udder;
- Tendor or hard udder;
- Watery milk;
- Abnormal milk colour;
- Not letting down milk;
- Generally unwell.
Some dairy farmers routinely strip cows daily for signs of mastitis; however, this should be avoided unless there is a real need to. For example, if the milk filter contains clots or if there has been a sudden rise above normal somatic cell count (SCC).
Routinely stripping cows may only exacerbate the problem by spreading the infection to non-infected animals.
6. Have a treatment protocol in place
It is important to have a treatment protocol in place for when a mastitis case is found.
Treated cows should be clearly marked either with leg bands and/or with spray paint – preferably on their udder or legs, where it is clearly visual to the person milking.
7. Milk in a stress free environment
Finally, if cows become stressed during the milking process this can trigger mastitis. Cows should be handled calmly and shouting should be avoided.
An animal can become distressed if she has to be separated from the herd for any reason. When drafting, it should be done as calmly and efficiently as possible to ease the stress on the animal and reduce the amount of time she is separated from the herd.
If a sufficient drafting system is not in place on your farm, this may be something to consider investing in before the breeding season commences.