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Detect mastitis early and help your herd thrive

Two weeks before calving until two weeks after calving is the highest risk period for mastitis infection to occur. Therefore, detecting mastitis cases early in the calving period is critical in determining the infection status of individual cows and the herd throughout the rest of the lactation.

In light of this, here are a few aspects of mastitis management and prevention that should be part of your spring plan:

- Calve cows in a clean environment. Indoor calving boxes should be clean, with fresh, dry bedding. Avoid calving on slats or in cubicles. Outdoor areas should be sheltered and clean.

- Decide on a management and identification system for withholding colostrum/transitional milk for the first eight milkings, to make sure cows have exceeded the dry cow treatment withholding period, and for cows treated with antibiotics to avoid mishaps that could result in antibiotics entering the bulk tank. Make sure everyone knows the system.

- Screen all colostrum cows for signs of mastitis or high SCC before being allowed to enter the bulk tank. For example, use CMT at their seventh or eighth milking to detect high SCC quarters, and use forestripping to look for watery milk, clots or flecks. Swollen quarters, heat and pain will also indicate mastitis. Decide whether to treat, leave and retest or withhold.

- Monitor the number of cases of mastitis occurring, especially in freshly calved heifers. If more than 5pc of cows had mastitis in the first month of calving, investigate and correct.

- Know your enemy. Collect sterile milk samples from clinical mastitis cases before you start treatment, and submit for bacterial culture. Identifying whether it's environmental or contagious mastitis will help review your treatment practices.

- Minimise the spread of bacteria from infected cows by milking them last.

See CellCheck, Animal Health Ireland, for further information

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