Mastitis

Sat, Sep 11th, 2021

Mastitis is the biggest factor in lowered milk production.

Subsequently, mastitis indicators are closely monitored by dairy farmers and treated proactively to avoid significant issues.

It's a condition that can affect all mammals including dairy cows.

In cows it results in inflammation of the udder tissue (mammary gland.)

Acute mastitis is rare and can be deadly to cows.

Subclinical mastitis is more common and affects milk production, and usually occurs in flare ups.

As a condition overall, we estimate we have about 1 cow per month affected by mastitis, and that it is more likely in summer months when it is hot and humid, and there are more flies.

Every time one of our cows gets milked, each individual quarter of its udder gets checked for conductivity, and if a cow has mastitis the conductivity goes up. Although this increase in conductivity might be related to another issue, it is a clue that we need to check the cow for mastitis.

Depending on the situation we might also test milk samples from individual cows for the somatic cell count (white blood cell count) which is a stronger indicator of mastitis.

An additional step is to send milk samples away to a lab to further pinpoint the bacteria causing it.

To help resolve the issue we will encourage the cow to be milked more often to help keep the udder flushed.

There are two naturopathic remedies we find also work well. One is a mint cream that we rub onto the affected quarters to increase blood circulation and help fight off the infection. The other remedy involves injecting a naturopathic mixture into the affected quarter.

We find these treatments work well, but if the issue is still not resolved we would then need to infuse the udder with antibiotics. In the event this is necessary, then that cows’ milk is discarded for the next 30 days as per organic standards. (For conventional milk it would be discarded for 3 days.)

Bedding has a significant impact on mastitis prevalence. Dairy farmers who use sand for bedding are much less likely to see mastitis infections because sand does not support bacterial growth.

We have a compost pack which is more susceptible to supporting bacterial growth. This is one of the reasons our pack has to be managed on a daily basis. It is cultivated twice a day, and the air flow from the overhead fans help keep the pack dry and bacterial growth under control.

There are also other systems in place to monitor mastitis.

Every shipment of milk is tested by Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) for various attributes including the somatic cell count, bactoscan (cleanliness of the milk), fat, protein, lactose and freezing point (to ensure water has not been added), and the presence of antibiotics.

All of these test results are loaded into the DFO database to each individual farm account and are accessible to us for monitoring. As well DFO publishes statistics on averages which help us judge our results, and they provide awards and gives penalties depending on individual farm results.

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Benefits of the Compost Pack

At Mapleton's we use a Compost Pack in our Main Dairy Barn.

To read more about this system and the benefits it offers our cows please visit here...

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