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Let's Talk Mastitis...

Mastitis is a common disease on dairy farms. From a disease perspective, mastitis is the second largest economic impact on a dairy farm.


What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is inflammation in the udder and is usually the result of a bacterial infection. Mastitis develops from microorganisms invading the udder through the teat canal. They migrate up the teat canal and colonise the secretory cells. The colonised organisms produce toxic substances harmful to the milk producing cells.


When the cows immune system detects an infection, white blood cells are sent to the infected area, the udder tissue. This is when clots or watery milk may be seen and if tested there will be an increased SCC (somatic cell counts).



Spread of Mastitis

Historically, the most common way mastitis spread was between cows through the milking process, known as 'contagious mastitis'. The most common way to spread it now is the environment from manure and dirt.


Contagious Mastitis

This is the transfer of bacteria from cow to cow. This can be spread a number of ways:

  • On the hands of people milking

  • Milking cloths or wipes

  • Faulty milking machine

  • Air admission into the milking unit

  • Poor liner fit

  • Poor maintenance of the milking machine

  • Poor pulsation

  • Overmilking or incorrect ACR setting



Signs of Mastitis

  • Udder swelling - harness. thickening

  • Warmth in the udder - with or without redness

  • Pain - with or without clots in the milk

  • Cow may be sick - can lead to death

Environmental Mastitis

This is the transfer of bacteria from the environment to the cow from...

  • Splashes of manure

  • Dirty legs

  • Dirty tails

  • Lying on the contaminated beds


Importance of Drying Off

Drying off is an opportunity to cure problem cows but to reduce antimicrobial resistance selective dry cow therapy should be a priority.


Hygiene is Critical at Drying Off:

  • Wear nitrile gloves

  • Completely milk out the quarter

  • Disinfect the teats and teat ends

  • Start with the teat furthest away

  • If needed administer an approved intramammary


Key Points

High SCC and mastitis impact many areas of a dairy farm. Management, control and treatment of mastitis is best done by using a 7 point approach:


  1. Milk Clean Teats Regularly evaluate udder and teat end cleanliness on farm.

  2. Disinfect All Teats Ensure complete coverage of every teat on every cow.

  3. Treat Cases of Mastitis Quickly and Correctly Identify pathogens to better understand the cause and determine appropriate treatment options.

  4. Use Teat Sealants and Selective Dry Cow Therapy Dry-off and calving are the highest risk period for mastitis. Make the process clean!

  5. Cull Chronic Cows Use records to determine eligible cull candidates.

  6. Maintain Equipment and Milking Records Faulty equipment and lack of attention to the milking routine can damage teat ends and increase mastitis risk.

  7. Use Nutritional Technology Zinpro Performance Minerals have shown to consistently reduce SCC and improve immune response in dairy cattle.


For more information please contact your local DN Sales Specialist or call us on 01200 420200.




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