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DULUTH, Ga. – Dairy cows are at the greatest risk for new mastitis infections during the early and late dry period. An effective dry cow therapy program can help minimize the number of new infections during the dry period and limit clinical mastitis at freshening.

“Mastitis is due to multiple factors and can be especially challenging in the summertime,” said Linda Tikofsky, DVM, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim.

That’s why an effective dry cow management program is typically multifaceted.

“During the summer months, we need to reduce the bacterial challenge and make sure our cattle are as resistant to new infections as possible,” Dr. Tikofsky said.

Preventing mastitis

Reduce bacteria in the environment: “Bacteria like three things,” reported Dr. Tikofsky. “They like food such as manure, they like warmth, and they like humidity. So, as it gets warmer, the environment becomes more conducive to bacterial growth.” To help minimize bacteria in the environment, clean stalls and alleyways several times a day to remove organic matter.

Follow good parlor procedures: Good procedures include making sure milking equipment functions properly and teats are clean and dry before attaching milking equipment. You’ll want to use an effective teat dip immediately after milking and maintain good udder hygiene between milkings.

Keep cows cool and comfortable: Maintaining good ventilation and using fans, sprinklers and misters can help minimize stress that can compromise the immune system.

Know mastitis-causing bacteria

Identifying the bacteria that cause trouble on your dairy can help determine if an infection warrants treatment.

“We know from research that not all mastitis cases need to be treated,” Tikofsky noted. “In some cases, the cow will cure herself.”

For those infections that need treatment, knowing the pathogens involved can help you select antibiotics that will be most effective.

“We also know that some pathogens will not respond to any antibiotics,” said Tikofsky. “There’s no effective treatment for Mycoplasma species, for example, and Pseudomonas species are resistant to most antibiotics.”

To identify the specific pathogen, producers can take a milk sample, culture it and wait 24 hours for results before deciding to treat in mild to moderate cases. Sampling can be done without a negative effect on cure rate or animal welfare. However, for severe mastitis cases, treat cows right away with an appropriate treatment protocol.

Three-part therapy program

A comprehensive dry-cow program should include:

  • Antimicrobial infusions to treat current subclinical udder infections and help prevent the development of new infections.
  • A teat sealant to supplement the natural keratin plug and further prevent exposure of the teat canal to bacteria. 
  • A coliform mastitis vaccine that’s effective against Escherichia coli and the effects of endotoxemia caused by E. coli and Salmonella Typhimurium. “Producers may want to consider incorporating a booster before the hot days of summer,” suggested Tikofsky.

Involve your Vet

"Your veterinarian understands the disease process, the bacteria responsible and the management practices on your dairy,” explained Dr. Tikofsky. “They can be very good counselors in helping you develop a good mastitis prevention and treatment protocol.”  

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