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How to avoid mastitis in your dairy animals

Saturday March 15 2014

Rose Koech milks her cow. Proper hygiene will keep away mastitis. PHOTO | FILE

Rose Koech milks her cow. Proper hygiene will keep away mastitis. PHOTO | FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue involving one or more quarters of the udder. The udder is divided into four quarters each with a teat.

Mastitis that is characterised by the swelling of the whole udder or any of the quarters of the udder, firmness, increased temperature of the udder on palpation and changes in milk consistency and colour is termed clinical Mastitis. Another form of mastitis may not show these signs and is referred to as  sub-clinical.

Mastitis may be caused by a variety of factors including bacteria and physical injury. The source of bacteria could be a cow suffering from diseases such as  tuberculosis, brucellosis and leptospirosis.

Mastitis cases increase where there are enabling factors like poor hygiene, wounds on the teats, direct injury to the udder, faulty milking machines, faulty milking techniques, poor disinfection procedures and continual presence of cows with mastitis in the herd, especially at milking times.

Mastitis may be per acute, acute, sub-acute and chronic depending on the severity of signs observed. The per acute case is severe and has a systemic reaction which is assessed by a high body temperature of more than 39.2 degrees Celsius. The other cases do not have a rise in body temperature.

Infection of each mammary gland occurs via the teat canal from infected udder or environment.

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The contamination of milker’s hands, wash clothes and milking machine cups by milk from infected quarters may quickly lead to the spread of infection to the teats of other animals.

Cows that develop mastitis will die if it is severe and correct and adequate treatment is not given. Inadequate treatment will lead to incomplete cure  resulting in chronic mastitis in which case the cow will produce low quality and quantity of milk.

The milk from the infected quarter of the udder will not be good for human or calf consumption and must be discarded, which is a loss to the farmer both in milk production and the cost of medicine and veterinary surgeon’s fees.

WHAT TO DO

  • Observe personal hygiene by washing hands regularly after eating, sneezing or after visiting the toilet. Always use warm water and soap. Washing hands between the milking of each cow will limit the cross contamination and the spread of diseases.
  • Wear clean protective clothes.
  • Wash dirty udders with water and look out for signs of udder infection.
  • Cows with mastitis should be milked last.
  • Never use a communal cloth to clean more than one udder.
  • Clean and dry with disposable towel the teats after fore-milking.
  • Pre-dip the teats as this lowers the risk of new infections and use a  single paper towel per cow and dry teats before milking.
  • Dip each teat immediately after milking by using an approved teat dip that kills 99.9 per cent of the bacteria that cause mastitis in 30 seconds.
  • Treat all clinical cases with the correct drugs and for the right period of time.
  • Antibiotic sensitivity should be done to make sure you use the best antibiotics to treat your cows. Cows that frequently develop mastitis should be culled.
  • All cows must get dry cow mastitis treatment when they are being dried off.
  • Keep cows as clean as possible and keep them away from wet and muddy areas.
  • Calving areas should be clean and must have proper bedding, preferably straw.
  • Use California Mastitis Test (CMT) after three days of calving and before drying off on fresh milk from each quarter in the milking parlour to detect sub-clinical mastitis at each stage on the dairy farm.

Dr Mutai is a veterinary surgeon in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, at Egerton University. [email protected]  and [email protected]