4 tips for stopping mastitis in wet weather

Juan Rodrigo Pedraza, DVM
Dealing with seasonally wet weather can create environmental mastitis challenges if you aren’t using best management practices.

Don’t let the old adage “April showers bring May flowers” become “April showers bring May mastitis” on your dairy. Dealing with seasonally wet weather can create environmental mastitis challenges if you aren’t using best management practices. Let me share four key focus areas that can help set you up for success during wet weather.

Provide clean, dry bedding

While facility type can have a significant influence on how you protect against wet weather, keeping bedding clean and dry is a best practice, because mastitis pathogens can thrive in wet bedding. I suggest increasing the number of times you add new bedding during rainy seasons in order to keep it dry.

If you are concerned about having enough additional bedding materials, consider reducing the amount of material you put on at each opportunity. For example: If you normally put four inches of sand on a bed once a week, consider putting one inch of sand on every other day. This will allow you to maintain the dryness of the bed with the same amount of material.

Test your waste management

Wet weather can really be a litmus test for how good your waste management is. It is important to make sure alleyways are clean so cows are not dragging manure back into stalls. This also will help keep their feet clean and prevent contaminating the udder. Remember, cleaning the back of the stall is a must — someone must rake stalls when cows are away for milking and make sure the alley is clean.

Additionally, if your cows are in dry lots, pay close attention to the areas that are undercover — animals may be congregating there and creating a very muddy area as well as increasing the risk of udder injuries due to crowding. Daily pen management is crucial to provide cow comfort and keep dry lots clean.

Watch out for heat stress

Just because the weather is wet doesn’t mean it’s cold, and heat and dampness can be a perfect environment to increase infection risk. Heat-stressed cows have depressed immunity. If the udder is exposed to bacteria due to muddy conditions, a heat-stressed cow may not be able to fight off the infection.

Fine-tune your vaccination protocol

Coliform mastitis vaccinations, such as Enviracor® J-5, can help reduce the effects of environmental mastitis. While you may typically administer the vaccine during the dry period, it is worth revisiting your vaccination protocol with your veterinarian to account for increased pressure from environmental pathogens.

Finally, if you are facing increased infections due to wet weather, remember that Spectramast® LC (ceftiofur hydrochloride) Sterile Suspension is a broad spectrum antibiotic labeled for the treatment of clinical mastitis associated with coagulase-negative staphylococci, Streptococcus dysgalactiae, and Escherichia coli and the treatment of diagnosed subclinical mastitis associated with coagulase-negative staphylococci and Streptococcus dysgalactiae.

A herd veterinarian can help you learn more about treatments as well as determine a proper wet-weather mitigation plan for your dairy.