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Dealing with autumn mastitis following mild weather

The mild autumn is leaving dairy herds struggling with seasonal mastitis incidences, says Advanced Nutrition’s veterinary nutritionist, Dr Debby Brown.

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“Mastitis cases occur to varying degrees in different herds and we try to reduce the risk. However, this season, and when I think back 12 months, cases of mastitis suddenly increase, or in some low incidence herds they recur, in autumn,” she says.

 

“I have been trying to get to the bottom of their respective problems and subsequently encourage farmers to introduce a preventative plan. However this provides a challenge in itself and again proves autumn mastitis is multi factorial,” says Dr Brown.

 

The common causal factors, especially at this time of the year, are:

  • Stocking density
  • Warm, humid weather
  • Flies
  • Environmental pathogens

 

Examples

Dr Brown gives examples reflecting three of the contrasting incidents on farms she recently visited.

 


Streptococcus uberis

1. “This unit had just bought a herd in to expand cow numbers and suffered a sudden outbreak of streptococcus uberis, a primarily environmental organism.
"I attributed this to an increase in shed humidity due to the warm, wet autumn; there was an issue with scrapers, so the amount of slurry increased; stocking density increased and the newly-bought cows potentially introduced a new strain which the resident cows were more susceptible to.”

Action

Infected cows were separated as soon as possible and treated. Cubicles were bedded with lime to reduce moisture and scrapers were amended to reduce build-up of slurry.

 


Somatic cell counts

2. “A herd calving about 400 cows in a short time from the end of August was struggling with high somatic cell counts and mastitis cases. These cows were tightly stocked through the dry and post-calving periods, and they graze during the day until November. Once again, Strep uberis was identified, but also e.coli. Again environmental pathogens were mainly responsible.

“Tight stocking is likely to have increased disease spread and also made it harder to optimise cleanliness of the cows as they come in for milking. The warm, wet autumn increased wet areas around gateways and flies may have played a factor, even though not obviously in this case.”

Action

Keep cows in at night, treat cubicles to minimise environmental risk, increase grazing space during the day.

 


Housing

3.“A fully housed herd with cows unsettled throughout autumn, which increased the risk of mastitis, affecting production. The sheds struggled for ventilation, having been built side by side. With still, warm days there was a big increase in flies in the shed, reducing cow lying time and therefore cudding. Faeces tended to be looser, which means the cows’ legs and udders were dirtier, making it harder to reduce lameness.”

Action

Ideally, take off some boards from the Yorkshire boarding to allow more air in. Wet the cows, either by hosing or sprinkling, to help reduce their temperature. Install fans to increase air speed.

 

Four Point Autumn Mastitis Prevention Plan

ONE

Ensure plenty of space for cows to lie down and feed 1sq.m per cow lying space, 75cm (2ft 5in) per cow

 

TWO

Optimise shed cleanliness

 

  • Scrape out as often as possible – at least twice a day manually, and run automatic scrapers run as close to hourly as possible
  • Set cubicles up to reduce muck on them, clean at least twice daily
  • Use lime or other product to help keep cubicles dry and reduce bacterial load

 

THREE

Check out shed ventilation

 

  • Increase access to fresh air wherever possible
  • If air movement cannot be increased, consider placing fans in the shed to keep air moving and reduce cow fly attack

 

FOUR

Ensure parlour routine is tight, with individual attention to detail for each cow

  • Careful preparation with individual wipes and pre-stripping before attaching the units is essential to optimise cleanliness
  • After milking ensure good cover with dip or spray and check teat end condition for signs of damage
  • Ask your vet to observe the milking routine and look over the environment. A second opinion is always useful from someone who may see things you do not
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