Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Winter housing changes can help minimise heifer mastitis

Mary Kinston

Heifer mastitis has been a significant problem for a number of farmers this year.

A few have experienced mastitis prior to calving down, and I talked to one farmer from south Tipperary who had 30pc of his heifers pick up mastitis. Of these, one-third lost a quarter, one third were cured and the remainder were still being treated.

Another farmer from Enniscorty also experienced mastitis in 40pc of the heifers after calving.

He was disappointed with the rate of mastitis as he made significant changes to the winter and calving accommodation of these animals, as well as teat spraying the heifers before calving.

He did note that the heifers in question were bagged up really tightly and often leaked milk, and he wonders whether the supplementary feeding this year had a role to play in the incidence of heifer mastitis.

Luckily, the mastitis problems were easily cured but he's now considering the use of teat sealers on in-calf heifers next year.

In contrast, Mitchell Hayes from Blarney, Co Cork recorded a significant reduction in the incidence of heifer mastitis as a result of changing the winter accommodation from an out-wintering pad to well-bedded loose housing.

Padraic Cummins from Oranmore, Co Galway had no problems with the in-calf heifers and puts this down to running these through the parlour with last year's first calves to feed and teat dip.

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This has also significantly settled these animals when being milked.

Heifer mastitis gives a good indication of the state of calving and housing environment.

Cell Check by Animal Health Ireland recommends that if more than 5pc of your cows have had mastitis in the first month of calving you should investigate and correct any problems that might be causing this. Steps to minimise the occurrence of heifer mastitis are:

nCalve in a clean environment, with fresh, clean bedding in indoor boxes and with minimal manure contamination on pasture or pads;

nTake care with pre-milking preparation of udders, taking extra care for the first milking, when the risk of new infection is highest;

nConsider training the heifers in the milking area before calving, taking the opportunity to teat spray the heifers, which if done twice a week in the last two to four weeks before calving, will reduce the challenge from environmental bacteria;

nTake your time moving and milking freshly calved heifers and cows to minimise the injury to udders and teats;

nMilk heifers with severe udder oedema prior to calving and save the colostrums from the first milking for the calf after calving;

nIf udder oedema is a common problem consider changing the feeding and nutrition of heifers prior to calving;

nEnsure all quarters are milked out, but avoid over-milking. If heifers are not letting milk down, consider the use of Oxytocin.

A number of farmers have highlighted that their somatic cell count (SCC) is currently on the high side and have opted to milk record as soon as possible to provide a mechanism to identify problem cows.

The use of the California milk test can also be a valuable tool in determining whether a cow should be let into the tank or retained and treated.

Irish Independent

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