Summer can mean humid days, warm nights and ideal conditions for bacteria like Escherichia coli to grow on dairy farms. Elevated levels of E. coli bacteria can cause clinical coliform mastitis (CCM), threatening cows, production and profits this time of year.1,2
CCM can hit producers where it hurts this summer because the most severe cases tend to occur in a herd’s highest-producing older cows.1 After infection, 70 percent of cows experience a significant decrease in milk production and are then culled for this reason.2
CCM starts when teat ends are exposed to areas containing high levels of the E. coli coliform that then invades the udder. This can happen in free stalls, loose housing, calving stalls, pastures, dry lots or other areas where cows congregate. Bacteria numbers increase when areas are damp and warm, making cows more susceptible.3
Signs of the disease include:
· elevated temperature
· loss of appetite
· a hard, swollen quarter
· increased somatic cell count
· watery milk or milk containing blood
But once visual signs are noticed, it may be too late. If a case is clinical and treatment is withheld until a producer notices signs of the disease, it can be deadly for a cow. Ten percent of cows that contract CCM die one to two days after signs are noticed,1 making prevention key to avoiding the costly losses.
Teat dipping and dry cow therapy can help prevent staph and strep mastitis but do not prevent coliform mastitis.1 A prevention program that includes a CCM vaccine can be a reliable way to help avoid the disease. I also recommend the following tips:
§ Keep the overall herd environment clean and dry. Keep cows away from farm ponds, muddy lots or wet, wooded areas.
§ Maintain and replace bedding frequently. Avoid using sawdust for dry, pre-fresh and early lactation cows. Sand, limestone or straw, are good alternatives.
§ Keep cows on their feet for an hour after milking by providing them with fresh feed. This allows teat ends to close before contacting contaminated areas.
§ Refrain from milking wet udders. Employees should make sure teats are clean and dry before machine attachment. Producers also may consider clipping hair from udders.
§ Make sure employees wear rubber gloves while milking.
§ Control liner slips and shut off the vacuum before removing teat cups.
§ Have milking equipment regularly checked.
§ Work with a veterinarian to create a prevention plan that includes a coliform mastitis vaccine. I recommend using a two-dose vaccine that is approved for whole-herd protocol and requires no milk withholding.
Using a coliform mastitis vaccine that is approved for whole-herd protocol allows producers the ability to tailor the vaccination program to your herd’s needs. That way, you can treat the whole herd without having to worry about withholding milk while helping prevent a disease that could dramatically cut profits.
Because summer is so busy, it is a good idea to choose a two-dose vaccine instead of a conventional three-dose product. Choosing a CCM vaccine that is less labor-intensive and requires no milk withholding can save producers both time and money.
As a producer, you can’t wait until you see signs of coliform mastitis because it may be too late. Don’t wait for the damage to be done when you can help avoid the damage altogether.
1Mellenberger R, Kirk J. Mastitis control program for coliform mastitis in dairy cows. Available
at: /files/coliform_mastitis.pdf. Accessed June 9, 2008.
2Bagley C. Helping dairy producers reduce the SCC. Utah State University Extension. January 2000.
3McClure AM, et al. Effect of re-17 mutant Salmonella typhimurium bacterin toxoid on clinical coliform mastitis. J Dairy Sci 1994;77:2272-2280.