In most regions, spring calving has either started or is about to start, and some regions are as wet as they have been in recent memory.

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    mud

These wet conditions have created extra mastitis risk, especially at calving, and especially for environmental mastitis bacteria such as Strep uberis and E. coli

A few key actions can help to reduce those risks –

1.    Drying-off

The formation of an effective teat plug for the dry period and approaching calving is critical to minimising mastitis risk.

An effective dry-off procedure, including the possibility of using a teat sealant, will significantly reduce the risk of mastitis at calving.

2.    Environment

Many environments are going to be very wet and muddy, so suggesting those farms calve in a clean, dry area is frivolous. However, anything that reduces the level of contamination in calving areas will help -

  • Minimise the number of cows in the calving area at any one time. Utilise the calving area/pad for cows closer to calving - cows a bit further off calving are at a lower risk and can be in another area until they are close to calving.
  • If calving on pasture, keep moving to a new section more often than normal and before the risk escalates.
  • Record mastitis cases in fresh cows, and remember the Countdown “trigger” of 3 clinical cases in the previous 50 cows calved - if you reach this point, move to a new calving area, or clean and re-sheet the pad.
  • Have another area available as a “Plan B” if things get bad.

3.    Calving

Springing cows with large udders and swollen teats are at an especially high risk of mastitis - good management of these cows can dramatically reduce mastitis risk.

  • Cows with large swollen udders that drip milk prior to calving have a significantly higher mastitis risk, so consider bringing these cows in and starting to milk them. You will need a strategy to deal with these cows, and also how to manage any udder oedema (“flag”) issues.
  • Remove calves and get cows into the dairy and milking ASAP - at least once a day, and twice a day if possible. (Remember to make sure you have stored colostrum available for calves.)

4.    Milking fresh cows
Freshly calved cows (and heifers) with hard, swollen teats will be further compromised in wet conditions by mud & faeces on these teats - adopting a special strategy for these cows may substantially reduce this risk.

Three rules for dealing with fresh cows are - hygiene, hygiene & more hygiene!!!

  • Consider a special routine for fresh and colostrum cows that includes washing and drying with paper towel.
  • You may even consider pre-milking teat disinfection in these cows - if done, it needs to be done properly.
  • If you milk your colostrum cows on a test bucket, then these cows will actually milk at a higher vacuum than the rest of the herd!!  Yet these are the cows you would least wish to milk at a higher vacuum – so don’t overmilk fresh cows on a bucket!!
  • Heifers or cows that don’t “let down” can be treated with oxytocin – consult your vet.
  • Strip fresh cows at each milking during the colostrum period – the earlier you detect, segregate and treat clinical cases, the greater the chance of a cure, and the lower the risk of spread to other cows.

5.    Antibiotic Residues

Calving time is a busy time of year – there’s a lot going on and not enough hours in the day, so good record keeping and communication are vital to making sure mistakes don’t happen

  • Have a checklist of cows and their wihholding period expiry dates to ensure cows have exceeded their milk withholding period after dry cow therapy before they go into the vat
  • If in doubt, get the cow’s milk tested!

Summary

  • Although the risk of mastitis will always be higher in wet and muddy conditions, a planned approach can reduce these risks.
  • Farms can know when things are starting to go badly by using the Countdown "triggers" - in this case, reaching 3 clinical cases in the last 50 cows that have calved indicates a problem that probably requires a change in management.
  • Farms in high risk wet areas that are using the Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System have had specific Drying-Off and Calving Strategies developed to minimise these risks on their farms.

 

For further information about milking cows in wet and muddy conditions - "Minimising mastitis in wet conditions" and "Rain, mud & mastitis"

For the Countdown brochure on Mastitis Control in Wet Conditions" - click here.

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