Get prepared to tackle Summer Mastitis – Cow Welfare

Get prepared to tackle Summer Mastitis – Cow Welfare

We check in again with our Veterinary Consultant Tommy the Vet for an insight into Summer Mastitis. It is typically caused by a number of bacterial varieties, most notably Streptococcus dysgalactae and Arcanobacterium pyogenes.

Talk to any farmer who has had issues with this disease and they can tell you how frustrating it can be. It is dry mastitis usually seen between June-September in dry cows and heifers. It can also be rarely seen in bulls and all present with similar symptoms.

Symptoms to look out for

These animals can often be isolated, lying down more, slow to stand, and stiff when walking. They may have very high temperatures and swelling of the teat and udder.

They can abort due to the high temperatures. The infected teat will often be covered in flies. It is the head fly that plays a big role in this disease.

How does Mastitis occur?

The head fly can spread bacteria into the teat. They are usually attracted to teats that have been damaged. Once infected the teat and quarter will often swell up with pus and infection.

The quarter can be rarely saved and often if not spotted or mild, farmers will see heifers calving in with blind quarters.

Treatments that you can implement

It is essentially an abscess so drainage is key. The options for these cases are regular stripping every few hours. Stripping out infected quarters can be dangerous in wild animals. When doing this always tie up a back leg. They are very sore and should receive an anti-inflammatory as part of their routine treatments.

Some animals will need surgical drainage performed by your vet. Sick animals with high-temperatures need covering antibiotics and tubing teats are of very little benefit.

It is the control of pain and the drainage of the infection that is the most important element of summer mastitis treatment.

Controlling techniques to implement on your Farm

I have tried so many things and also have found that it really is a combination of things that helps reduce the risk

  • We know that flies present a risk during the summer months. So avoid where possible grazing heifers and dry cows where there are lots of flies. You can get summer mastitis in bulls very rarely.
  • Grazing Conditions -Where animals are let graze during the dry period may have a bearing on the level of flies. It is advisable to avoid fields that are well sheltered with a lot of tree cover. Try and keep the fields topped to reduce tall weeds or old senescent seed heads, which can provide cover for flies or can aid in the spread of infection as animals walk around the area.
  • Ensure teat condition is good in animals at the turnout. This can be influenced by the lying environment in housing.
  • Flytraps have been suggested to be used early in the season to slow down the build-up of big fly numbers on at-risk farms.
  • Insecticides are so important in keeping flies away. Use a licensed product and apply some with a gloved hand to the back of the udder. They need to be used every 4 weeks.
  • Fly tags can also help to keep flies away and need to be used in combination with other products.
  • Topical preparations or fly repellants also should be applied around the back end and udder. Things like Stockholm tar and others. Some farmers have found regular applications of eucalyptus oil useful. The trick with fly repellants is regular applications which are more work!
  • Garlic licks have also been used to help reduce down the fly burdens.

In farms with issues,  unfortunately, it takes a very comprehensive approach using all of the above. This, of course, will seem like expense and hassle. In my experience however, this is the only way to get on top of summer mastitis.

At a minimum pour ons, fly tags and fly repellants.

Famers with heifers calving in with blind quarters should consider summer mastitis as one differential for this. All cases of summer mastitis have a risk of aborting when pregnant. A frustrating disease for farms and cattle that requires a comprehensive approach to reduce the risk.

Teagasc have compiled a list of treatments commonly used in Ireland for Fly & Lice Control.

Please call Ronan on 087 7086714  to find out about using an automated mineral dosing system. There are many health benefits for your cattle. Continue planning for the year ahead.