What causes Mastitis in cows?
There are many answers to this question. I am going to share our experience. We have had plenty.
There are many types of mastitis. There are dangerous strands that are life threatening. There are strep infections that are easy to cure. AND there is Staphylococcus Auerus. It isn’t dangerous, or life threatening, but it is a pain in the neck and practically impossible to cure.
Unfortunately, our cow has Staphylococcus aureus. This is not what you want. A staph, mastitis infection is tough to clear up and often reoccurring. The staph infection basically colonizes in the mammary gland and hangs out. It seems to always be there waiting for a chance to flare up. Even with great medical treatment, only 50% of staph infections clear up. It can be very frustrating. Just when you think you have it licked – your milk doesn’t strain & you’re back at the vet.
It doesn’t matter how clean, meticulous and precise we are about udder health, cleaning the milking equipment, and dipping the teats. A Staph infection will hang out up in the udder and wait for an opportunity to resurface. It’s like the Terminator. It will be back.
It appears that our cow arrived at our farm already infected. Unfortunately, we did not know. If I were going to buy another cow, I would have her milk tested for Staph.
That is of no matter now. We have a delightful cow that we adore. Staph is a part of our life & thankfully we have managed to live with it. The good news is that we have milked 9 months mastitis free in the last year and have learned a ton.
Some Reasons our Staph mastitis has reoccurred:
- Going from machine milking to hand milking. When our cow went from being milked in 30 seconds by a machine, to us trying to learn how to hand milk her, the mastitis flared up big-time. Poor Faith.
- Not stripping out all the milk from the cow. We got an electric milk pump, yet did not know how to get ALL the milk out. Any milk left lingering in that udder is a breeding ground for problems.
- Holding up milk. This is pretty much self-inflicted mastitis by the cow. But she doesn’t know she is hurting herself. When a mama cow knows there is a little calf out in the field waiting, she may “hold up” her milk. No matter how huge and powerful your hands or your milk pump may be – if she is holding up for the calf, it can be nearly impossible to get all the milk out. There is very little you can do about this.
- A leak in the vacuum pump. A couple of months ago I noticed the pressure gage on our pump kept slowly going down & the milk kept getting more cowy. After 3 days I figured out there was a hole in our tank. The tank was easier to fix than the mastitis. Ugh.
- The new calf thought there were only 3 teats. Ugh again. We bought a calf to put on our cow. He was a tiny, adorable, little guy. He only liked to nurse from one side of our cow. And, he would empty 3 teats, but never 4 (of course he would skip the one with the reoccurring mastitis). We have had to block one side of the cow so he would nurse the 1 neglected teat. We are still teaching him to empty all 4. As he grows, he is getting a bigger appetite and getting better at emptying all 4 teats.
At times it can be frustrating. I am still very grateful to have our sweet cow. Here are some things that have helped us keep the mastitis under control:
- Before milking: we wash her teats with damp, hot washcloth. Washing Staph infected teat last (so not to spread).
- Dry all teats before attaching to milking equipment. Dry Staph infected teat last.
- Use electric milker instead of hand milking.
- Keep a calf with the cow. The calf keeps the cow completely milked out most of the time (especially if he knows there are 4 teats). If the milk is kept flowing through the udder this helps any infection from starting. While our calf Henry was with Faith (our cow) we had little to no mastitis problems.
- Careful observation. Feel each quarter before and after milking to be sure the udder is emptying.
- Striping out the cow. Making sure she is completely empty each time we milk her.
- Straining – watch the milk as it strains. Slow straining milk is an indication of a high cell count (which could be mastitis).
For more on Mastitis:
go Here – Help! My Cow May Have Mastitis – how to diagnose, what to look for, how to treat.
go Here – What is a Good Mineral Program?
go Here – 9 Reasons to Get a Jersey Cow and 3 Reasons Not to.
go Here – How to Stop Your Cow From Holding Up Milk
If you are dealing with mastitis, hang in there. It will get better.
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