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Mastitis is an inflammatory reaction of the udder to bacterial (infectious) or mechanical injury (non-infectious). Infectious mastitis can be caused by cow to cow transmission (contagious) or as a result of environmental challenges. It is regarded as the most common and costly disease affecting dairy cattle. In the average dairy herd, the annual cost is approximately $230 per cow, 70% of which is the associated with the resulting milk loss.
Cows should be provided with a comfortable, clean and hygienic environment that will minimize the risk of bacterial and physical damage to the udder, especially during the pre-calving period. This should also be supported by an appropriate “dry cow” antiseptic regime since it has been estimated that up to 60% of infections can be picked up during this period.
The milking machine is potentially a major source of physical teat damage and should be well maintained to ensure a consistent vacuum level with a constant pulsation rate and a regular program of teat cup liner replacement.
A hygienic milking routine is obviously essential but care should also be taken to avoid over-milking. Nutrition also has a part to play in mastitis prevention through maintenance of the immune system.