What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue (in layman terms, the “breast” of an animal from where milk is produced). It is commonly found in dairy cattle herds but can sometimes be observed in beef herds. Mastitis can occur in any animal (or human) but for the purpose and relevance of milk consumption to the human diet, we are focusing on mastitis in cows.
What causes mastitis?
There are two major causes of mastitis and they include;
What are the predisposing factors and risks of a cow having mastitis?
It is important to note that generally, mastitis is usually multi-factorial; resulting from factors that may include the farm’s production system, the environment the cows are kept in, level of immunity of the cow and the type of invading pathogen that causes the infection.
Also, flies are a large factor in the spread of the disease most especially if the cows are held in confined areas with high fly populations. Flies carry the disease, moving bacteria from the skin surface into the tissue by biting at the teat ends and exposing live tissue. This is the entry point of the pathogen which allows the bacteria into the udder infects the specific quarter.
Older cows, are at greater risk of getting mastitis because they typically have larger udders than younger cows. Therefore, the chance of physical injury by being stepped on is greater, and in early lactation the udder often contacts the ground, allowing the entry of bacteria into the teats.
Calves can also spread the infection from quarter to quarter when they suckle for milk and they suckle across teats.Also, if cross suckling across cows occurs, bacteria can be spread to other cows
Weather is also a risk factor for mastitis to occur. Higher instances of mastitis can occur when the weather changes from hot and humid, to wet and muddy conditions.
Economic implication of Mastitis
Mastitis causes significant economic losses to the farmer as most farmers depend on the milk produced from the udder to care for the calves and also to sell/process into milk and milk products (cheese, wara etc.). So, generally, a cow with mastitis has a lower milk yield, leads to reducing weaning weights of the growing calf and reducing profitability of the animal farm operation. Also, mastitis can reduce fertility (first service conception rates) and delay the onset of heat cycles in cows which also reduces the overall profitability of the farm.
How do you know a cow has clinical mastitis?
The most obvious symptoms of clinical mastitis in cows are as follows; Swollen udder, heat, hardness, redness or pain. Also, the infected cow’s milk takes on a watery appearance and flakes, clots or pus is often present. Other common signs include a reduction in milk yields, increases in body temperature, lack of appetite, and a reduction or reluctance to move due to the pain of a swollen udder.
How do you treat mastitis in cows?
Due to the infectious nature of mastitis, they should typically be treated with antibiotics. Even the mastitis that result from injury should be treated with antibiotics to prevent and resolve any infectious complication of the injury. To treat, the cow can be milked out and then the antibiotic can be infused directly into the infected gland. It is best to contact your veterinarian for the specific antibiotic to use, correct dosage and method of application specially to avoid antibiotic abuse.
Other ways of treatment and resolving mastitis in cows is the administration of oxytocin to stimulate milk let-down and milk flow so as to relieve the udder of bacterial load and growth medium. Also NSAID (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) can be given to reduce the swollen state and pain of the udder.
For mastitis that refuse to heal even after constant and prolonged treatment, it might be best to cull the animal so that the (mastitis) infection does not spread to other cows in the cattle herd.
How can you prevent Mastitis in the cows on your cattle farm?
Through everything, ensure you consult your veterinarian for a proper plan on the treatment and prevention of mastitis on your farm. This would save you from economic and financial losses in the long run.