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Bovine Mastitis: An Inflammatory Disease

Bovine mastitis, commonly known as cow mastitis, is an inflammatory disease of the mammary gland.

Bovine mastitis, commonly known as cow mastitis, is an inflammatory disease of the mammary gland of dairy cattle that is usually caused by bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae. The mammary gland, which produces milk, becomes inflamed and damaged due to the presence of pathogenic microorganisms.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are a few main causes and risk factors that contribute to cow mastitis infections:

– Bacterial Infections: As mentioned, the most common causes are contagious bacteria that are usually spread from cow to cow during the milking process if proper sanitation protocols are not followed. These bacteria enter the teat canal and migrate up into the udder, causing inflammation.

– Milking Hygiene: Poor udder, teat, and equipment hygiene increases the risk of new intramammary infections. Dirty milking conditions allow bacteria to spread more easily between cows.

– Lameness and Injuries: Cows with lameness issues or foot and leg injuries tend to have lower immune defenses, making them more vulnerable to Bovine mastitis. Mastitis itself can also cause lameness in some cases.

– Milking Machines: Improperly maintained or adjusted milking machines can damage teat skin, allowing pathogens easier access to the udder. Vacuum fluctuations and air leaks pose risks.

– Season and Stage of Lactation: Mastitis rates often peak during the dry period and early lactation when innate immunity is lower. Weather extremes like heat and cold can also influence new infection rates.

Clinical Signs and Effects

There are a few key clinical signs producers watch for that indicate a cow may have mastitis:

– Abnormal Milk: Infected milk may appear stringy, clotted, watery, bloody, or contain solid chunks or flakes. It is important for producers to check milk quality during and after milking.

– Swelling and Hardness: Painful swelling and hardness of one or more mammary quarters is a clear sign of intramammary infection requiring treatment.

– Loss of Appetite: Mastitis can cause the cow to feel generally unwell, resulting in reduced feed consumption.

– Decreased Milk Yield: As inflammation damages mammary tissue, milk production declines significantly in infected quarters. This leads to economic losses for the producer.

Left untreated, mastitis infections can become chronic or may even spread to other cows. They negatively impact cow welfare and productivity. Severe cases can cause life-threatening systemic illnesses as well.

Economic Impact on Dairy Industry

Bovine mastitis has massive economic consequences for global dairy farming operations and the industry as a whole. Some of the major costs include:

– Reduced Milk Yield: As mentioned, mastitis causes an immediate drop in milk production for the duration of the infection and sometimes permanently reduces quarter capacity.

– Increased Somatic Cell Counts (SCC): Mastitic milk has elevated SCC indicative of infection/inflammation. In many countries, milk with high SCC is valued lower when picked up from producers.

– Premature Culling: Chronically infected cows are usually culled early since mastitis affects their productive lifetimes in the herd. Younger stock is also at high risk.

– Therapeutic Costs: Treatment costs, diagnostic testing, dry cow therapy, labor for extra cow monitoring all add up. Hospital pen fees also apply for severe clinical cases.

– Increased Labor: Separate milking of clinical mastitis cows, stripping of infected quarters before/after milking, extra equipment sanitation all require more labor hours on farm.

Recent studies have estimated the total economic impact per case of clinical mastitis ranges anywhere from $180-300 USD when considering all cost factors. For larger herds or countries with high mastitis prevalence rates, the losses become enormous. Prevention and control are critical from both welfare and financial perspectives.

Mastitis Prevention and Control Strategies

Given the disease’s widespread significance, extensive research continues into better prevention, treatment and control of bovine mastitis globally. Some of the practices producers commonly employ include:

– Post-Milking Teat Disinfection: Effective teat dips or sprays after milking kill bacteria on teat skin, reducing transmission risk between cows.

– Dry Cow Therapy: All cows receive intramammary antibiotic treatment at drying off to cure existing infections and protect the dry period high-risk window.

– Milking Hygiene Routines: Thorough cleaning of cows’ udders and teats before milking and regular sanitation of equipment, floors, clothing etc.

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