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How to control Mastitis at the farm

Livestock
 

Worker milking at Eldoret Polytechnic in Eldoret Uasin Gishu County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Dear Daktari, I am a great fan of your articles and I religiously read them; they are a great source of very good information for my dairy farming. Now am afraid mastitis has taken root in my farm. What can I do to keep mastitis out of my farm? I have a herd of ten dairy crosses and every year I spend a lot of money on this disease. [Emmanuel Kisiang’ani Kitale]

Simply put, mastitis is the inflammation of the udder tissue. This follows infection of the tissue with bacteria that damage the milk-secreting tissue of the udder. The damage directly and negatively affects milk production and is a major cause of economic losses in the dairy industry – through the cost of treatment, and early culling.

There is a possible risk to public health when these toxins and drug residues used in the treatment also get into the human food chain. The latter happens when withdrawal periods are not adhered to. The challenge of antimicrobial resistance further complicates the equation.

Mastitis is classified using two methods – the first one uses clinical manifestation and puts it into six categories namely – clinical, sub-clinical, per acute, acute, sub-acute and chronic mastitis. This refers to the clinical manifestation of the disease. The other method classifies it into contagious and environmental mastitis. Mastitis can be diagnosed through a physical examination of the udder, the strip cup test, California mastitis test among other tests.

How to Prevent Mastitis

Minimising bacterial contact with the teat opening through cleanliness during milking and by ensuring the cow shade is in impeccable condition. This should be combined with proper milking that results in the expression of all the milk and does not cause injuries to the teat. Where hand milking is done the milker’s hands should be washed thoroughly with disinfected soaps before milking.  The udder should be washed thoroughly in a disinfectant solution, thereafter the teats should be cleaned and dried before milking. Make sure the milking machines are in good order so as not to cause injuries.

Dry cow therapy as your vet will tell you also helps to keep mastitis at bay. Dry cow therapy is the use of intramammary antibiotic therapy immediately after the last milking. This therapy is administered either as a blanket treatment of all quarters of all cows or as a selective treatment of only infected cows. Dry cow therapy is the best way to cure chronic and subclinical mastitis that is difficult to treat during lactation. Treating of infected cows should be done after antibiotic sensitivity laboratory tests for quick and effective healing. Good records are a great asset in mastitis control.

Clinically infected cows should be milked last and should be isolated from other healthy animals. The calf should not be allowed to suck the infected teats. The milk from infected teat should be milked out daily three times and disposed of hygienically. Dipping teats in a solution of suitable disinfectant after completion of the milking process is the most effective single hygienic practice for preventing mastitis.

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