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Seven steps to keep mastitis off your dairy herd

Incomplete milking creates favourable conditions in the teat for bacterial growth and flare up of mastitis. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]

Dear Daktari,

I have six Friesian crosses which normally give me a good amount of milk. I have been having cases of mastitis in my herd repeatedly. Is there something that can be done to prevent these incidences? [Samuel Kamau, Nyeri County]

Thank you Mr Kamau for reaching out to us. Mastitis is a serious but unfortunately a common disease in dairy herds. High yielders are also prone to mastitis. Fortunately, there are measures one can take to reduce incidences of mastitis.

1. Teat Dipping

This involves application of disinfectants to the teat after milking. The period after milking is a critical time as the teat canals are open and bacterial can easily migrate upwards into udder and cause disease. Iodine solution is a dip cup used for teat dipping. This procedure protects the teat from bacterial invasion. Make sure the cows stand for a while after milking since laying down immediately increases chances of bacteria entering the open teat canal. 

2. Keep clean milking equipment

Milking equipment will get close contact to teats and can easily spread bacteria. Milking buckets should be cleaned using hot water and dried upside in the sun. Milk utensils should be disinfected preferably with chlorine solution.

3. Clean cow house

A dirty environment is a primary source of bacteria that cause mastitis in dairy animals. Always keep the dairy cow house clean and dry. Wet bedding favour bacterial growth and multiplication. Also ensure the cow is clean. Wash the udder and the skin around it thoroughly before milking.

4. Milker’s hygiene

The person milking must always be clean. Before touching the teats, he or she must thoroughly wash hands and dry them with a clean towel.

5. Test first milk from every quarter

Always check or test milk for mastitis before milking. A simple strip cup be used to carry out this cow side test. The test should be carried out for every teat. This early intervention minimises spread from one quarter to the other. There are two techniques to test for mastitis — strip cup and California Mastitis Test (CMT). A strip cup is made up of an enamel plate and a cup; milk is checked for lumps, flakes and clots. CMT checks mastitis by measuring the amount of dead cells in milk.

6. Milk the udder empty

Poor milking is a major predisposing factor to mastitis. Incomplete milking creates favourable conditions in the teat for bacterial growth and flare up of mastitis. Frequent milking is used alongside medical treatment of mastitis and the principle is to deny bacteria food for its growth in the teat. Incomplete milking is common in machine milking and with poor milkers.

7. Selection of Dairy Stock

Cows with pendulous udders, weak teat sphincter muscles that close the teat canal are prone to mastitis. When buying dairy animals keenly observe the udder and if they have above characteristics do not buy.

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