The mild autumn is leaving dairy herds struggling with seasonal mastitis incidences, says Advanced Nutrition’s veterinary nutritionist, Dr Debby Brown.
“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:
Dr Brown gives examples reflecting three of the contrasting incidents on farms she recently visited.
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.”
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.
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.”
Keep cows in at night, treat cubicles to minimise environmental risk, increase grazing space during the day.
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.”
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.
Ensure plenty of space for cows to lie down and feed 1sq.m per cow lying space, 75cm (2ft 5in) per cow
Optimise shed cleanliness
Check out shed ventilation
Ensure parlour routine is tight, with individual attention to detail for each cow