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Preventing mastitis in cattle

A healthy diet and clean environment can reduce the risk of your cattle developing mastitis.

Radio interview source: Dr. Joseph Hogan, Professor of Animal Science, Ohio State University

Click here to listen: Preventing mastitis in cattle

Lactating cows are susceptible to an infection called mastitis that can affect their milk supply. Animal science professor Joe Hogan, at Ohio State University, says mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland, caused by bacteria. The pathogens are transferred from cow to cow or picked up in the environment.

There are two types of mastitis -- sub-clinical and clinical. Sub-clinical is not visibly apparent, and must be detected by a lab test. A cow with a clinical case of mastitis will show signs.

"You'll have abnormalities in the milk, or the gland's swollen, or the cow shows signs of illness," says Hogan. "If she's ill she'll run a temperature, she'll not eat as much, she'll have pain, and she'll reflect to the touch to the udder. You can see some swelling and redness on the teats if they're a color that you can detect color change in."

Mastitis can be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but Hogan says in the majority of cases, the cow's immune system will clear up mastitis on its own. This is why it's important to do what you can to keep her immune defenses up so she can fight infection -- and prevent it.

"There's two ways to control mastitis. You can either increase the cow's resistance, which we can do, but only to a certain point. And then the other way, which has had far more success over the last 50-years -- hygiene and her environment," says Hogan.

The primary source of environmental bacteria that causes mastitis is soiled bedding. When the cow lies down, the teats come in contact with manure and other contagions. It's important to clean her stall daily and add fresh material. Hogan recommends inorganic material such as sand, which inhibits the growth of pathogens.

Also do your best to keep the cow dry and out of muddy areas. If you milk her, make sure your sanitation procedures are in order to avoid spreading infection.

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