I spent 3 days last week at the National Mastitis Council (NMC) Annual Conference. Anyone reading this column should be a member of the NMC (firstname.lastname@example.org). As most of you know, the NMC originally published a 5-point mastitis control program that was aimed at the main contagious pathogens, Staph aureus and Strep ag. With the success of the 5-point program Strep ag has been nearly eradicated and Staph aureus well controlled. With the advent of economic penalties for bulk tank somatic cell count (BTSCC) above 400,000 and bonuses for lower somatic cell counts, the average BTSCC across the US dairy herd has dropped to below 200,000. To achieve this drop in BTSCC, the 5-point program has become a 10-point program with numerous sub-pointS, actually resulting in a 65-point mastitis control program. But half of the sub-points are under only 3 of the 10 headings: Proper Milking Procedures, Appropriate Management of Clinical Mastitis During Lactation, and Effective Dry Cow Management. This year the scientific presentations at the NMC conference seemed to focus on these three headings with occasional brief reference to the other topics.
We all know the Proper Milking Procedures should include Strip, Dip, Wipe, and Attach. Attach the teat cups about 90 seconds after stripping. Wear clean gloves to control spread of contagious mastitis pathogens. This is especially important in a Mycoplasma infected herd. Adjust the cluster as needed and gently remove it at the end of milking. Current research reports support the idea that a little under milking is far superior to over milking. I suggest we should gradually adjust Automatic Take Off settings until we notice a drop in average production and then back off on the setting a little. Of the 11 points under the topic of Proper Milking Procedure, teat dipping is mentioned 4 times. The pre- and post-dips should be scientifically proven to be effective. No where does it suggests proven teat dips can be diluted with water to reduce cost, diluted with air to create a foam and reduce cost, or diluted with emollient in an effort to improve skin condition. Any dilution can alter the formulation enough to change the chemistry and possibly making a proven effective teat dip less effective. In any case ask the manufacturer for data to support the use of the teat dip of choice. Twice the NMC suggests to cover the entire teat with dip, pre- and post-milking. Then the NMC goes one step farther and says, “To optimize mastitis control and reduce costs, teat dipping is preferred to spraying as the method of disinfectant application.” My estimate is that 50% of your mastitis control program comes from effective teat dipping. I also recognize that Proper Milking Procedures are difficult to maintain 24/7/365. But the effort can return huge dividends with improved mastitis control and reduced treatment costs.
Appropriate Management of Clinical Mastitis During Lactation depends on following a treatment protocol that is supported by laboratory diagnosis of pathogens. Thorough records should be used to evaluate the protocol and identify chronic infections. Do not treat and eventually cull chronic cases. Milk cows last that are known to be chronically infected with a contagious pathogen or that have a chronic case of mastitis.
Effective Dry Cow Management depends on appropriate nutrition to facilitate dry off. While blanket treatment of all cows is common practice, selective treatment based on cow treatment history, somatic cell count, and cultures is gaining broader support. In addition, teat sealants, in addition to or in place of antibiotic dry cow treatment is generally supported by broad scientific evidence, especially when fresh cow somatic cell counts are high due to environmental pathogens.
Generally, good teat dips are essential. Data such as individual somatic cell counts or LDH levels in the milk are critical to accurate monitoring of sub-clinical mastitis in the herd. Cultures of fresh cows, clinical cows before treatment, and chronic high SCC or LDH are essential to guide treatment and control programs. New technology such as LDH monitoring and advanced diagnostic techniques such as PCR have accelerated our mastitis control programs. Become a member of the NMC and review the scientific reports and resources provided with a membership.