There have been several recent major rain events and floods across much of the dairy regions of Australia, and more are forecast for the coming weeks.
Mastitis outbreaks and high cell counts have been and still are a major issue associated not only with flooded areas but also areas that have just been very wet.
Flood water surrounds a dairy
Campaspe River in flood at Echuca
In terms of mastitis control, at Dairy Focus we see the mud/flood effect on mastitis in our dairy herds during these rain events as having two phases.
The initial phase is the acute phase that occurs at or around the time of rain/flooding where cows either couldn’t be milked for one or more milkings, or where they have been subjected to massive environmental challenge (i.e. wading through lots of mud & water).
Experience has shown us that although many farms experience high cell counts and increased clinical cases of mastitis during this period, they commonly return to near normal over the following few weeks after normal milking returns.
Often the most critical aspects in this phase are the ability to feed the cows, and also to physically be able to milk them!
The second phase applies to herds (a minority) where things do not return to normal over those next few weeks. On these farms, cell counts remain high and/or an excessive number of clinical cases keep occurring.
In the initial acute phase, we recommend three simple but critical actions for mastitis control under these conditions –
- Cow preparation at milking – when teats are very wet & muddy, wash all teats with running water and dry with one paper towel per cow. This commonly requires an extra person in the dairy, but is generally only for a couple of days.
- Strip test the herd each day to enable early detection and treatment of any clinical cases – the quicker they are detected, treated and segregated, the better the chance of an effective cure, and the less chance they have to spread the infection to other cows.
- Teat disinfection – effective post-milking teat spraying or dipping will be critically important. Aim for 100% coverage of 100% of teats at every milking, and use a "ready-to-use" product, as the quality of mixing water may be adversely affected during rain events/floods. Pre-milking teat disinfection will generally only be of assistance when it is done correctly, and is only really cost effective against certain bacteria – most herds should seek advice to make this decision.
It also goes without saying that farms should do their best to minimise the risk from the environment – choose a drier paddock, avoid or fence off the flooded or muddy lane areas, etc - but in a flood situation, this is often outside the farm's control!
Of the farms on the Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System who have successfully implemented these measures, most have seen little impact on cell counts and although they have experienced some extra clinical cases, the number has been less than they expected, and much less than on other similar farms – these three steps are simple, low cost, and they work!!
These three steps are simple, low cost, and they work!!
In the second phase, commonly two to three weeks later, on those farms which have not returned to near normal cell counts and levels of clinical mastitis, a more thorough investigation of what is happening will be needed on those specific farms.
It may be that there was actually a pre-existing problem which has been exacerbated and now has to be dealt with, or it may be that there are ongoing issues to be diagnosed and resolved.
We have developed the Dairy Focus Rain & Mud Mastitis Rescue Pack that we use to help these farms work through a logical process to deal with their ongoing issues.
If you would like more information or assistance, see our Rain, Mud & Mastitis page, or call the Dairy Focus office now on (03) 58590706.
There are some more resources available through the Dairy Australia website.