Farm Ireland

Sunday 24 March 2019

How to reduce the risk of heifer mastitis on your farm

UCD Vet School lecturer, Catherine McAloon.
UCD Vet School lecturer, Catherine McAloon.
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Heifer mastitis can be a significant problem for some herds, but the risk can be reduced according to UCD veterinary school lecturer Catherine McAloon.

She said not only can threaten first lactation as studies have shown that if heifers suffer from a case of mastitis in their first 30 days after calving produce less milk and are likely to be less profitable over their lifetime, but this also includes first lactation animals with non-functional quarters.

“If a heifer has scratches or warts or in any case where the integrity of the teat is compromised, your heifer is more exposed to infection and greater caution should be taken,” explained UCD Vet School lecturer, Catherine McAloon.

“If a heifer gets mastitis in her first lactation it will affect her life time yield and there is also a high risk of reoccurrence in subsequent lactations, so this should be a priority with farmers,” she said at the recent CellCheck event held by Teagasc Animal Health Ireland, held in Clonakilty Agricultural College in Cork.

If over 15pc of have clinical mastitis at or around calving or if over 15pc of heifers have a somatic cell count (SCC) of over 200,000 cells/mL at their first milk recording, there is a clear problem on the farm according to the lecturer speaking at a recent CellCheck event.

Prevention of heifer mastitis involves strategies to reduce exposure of heifers to mastitis pathogens and ensure good immune system function.

She also advised farmers to have sufficient cubicle spaces for heifers to avoid any bully tactics that would stop them from lying down or that may damage the skin of the teat.

“Bully tactics in the cubicles will lead to more stress on the heifers and increase the risk of mastitis. It will also mean the heifers will be dirtier if they can’t lie down, which may result in mastitis.

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“Reducing stress on your animals is key, especially nutritional stress. If heifers aren’t getting sufficient nutrients, their own immune system is compromised, and they are more at risk of coming across mastitis.

“Chat to your vet about the risk factors or if you have a problem on your farm with mastitis in your heifers,” she recommended.

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