In most areas, spring calving is well under way, so now is a good time to be very aware of how much mastitis is occurring at calving time, and to be ready to act if necessary.

Countdown has given us a set of "triggers" to indicate when there could be a significant problem which is likely to be worth looking into.

The trigger point for clinical cases of mastitis at calving is 5%.

For this purpose, the calving period for each cow (or heifer) is defined as two weeks before calving until two weeks after calving.

For every 100 cows that calve, if you have 5 or more cows that develop a clinical case in the first 2 weeks after they have calved, it is likely that there is a problem.

For an earlier indication, you can think of the trigger as 3 cases in every 50 cows that calve.

What if you find that you are exceeding that trigger? What should you do?

We would suggest that you immediately consult your vet/mastitis adviser. It is likely that their advice will include four steps to be taken immediately –

  1. Immediately start to collect milk samples from any new cases – knowing which bugs are involved will be extremely important.
  2. Identify which age group of animals is affected i.e. is it the first calving heifers, or is it the mature cows, or is it both?
  3. Move the remainder of the springers in the affected age group(s) to a fresh, clean calving area (You have got a “Plan B” area ready haven’t you????) You may also need to consider calving the heifers separately to the mature cows.
  4. Immediately introduce pre-milking preparation (wash & dry – for more information click here) for the freshly calved cows & heifers, and make sure all animals are strip tested for mastitis at each milking whilst in the colostrum phase.

Once sent off to the lab, the milk samples will take a couple of days until results are available, and these should then be discussed with your vet/mastitis adviser to be sure that the steps you have taken are sufficient, or if further action is likely to be necessary.

If you think you are reaching or exceeding the 5% trigger, do something!

Strep uberis is likely to be a major culprit in these circumstances, and if that is the case, then regular movement of the springers to fresh, clean areas will be necessary to reduce the risk of infection.

Just to re-emphasise – if you think you are reaching or exceeding the 5% trigger, do something!

If you just wait to see if it gets any better, you might be lucky, but probably more often than not, it just gets substantially worse, and then you have a really big task!!

Once cows become infected at the start of their lactation, many of those infections may not be resolved until the next dry-off, if at all – that is a long time away and they may cause you a lot of grief until then.

If you would like any further information, or to discuss your situation, just call the Dairy Focus office on 03 58590706 – we are happy to have a chat and see if we can help.

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