What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is infection and inflammation of the mammary gland, udder, of the cow. It is characterised by the following changes;

  • Pain – udder is painful to touch
  • Heat – hot inflamed udder
  • Swelling – hard frim udder
  • Redness – inflammation in the udder
  • Changes in the milk – clots, consistency, colour


What Causes Mastitis?

Mastitis is caused by bacteria entering the teat canal and setting up an infection within the gland of the udder, these bacteria are classified as either environmental or contagious (although some can be both);

  • Environmental bacteria – contaminates the teats between milking, found in the soil, faeces, feed stuffs and water. The most common environmental bacteria is Streptococcus Uberis, this is most common in the spring at and around calving time. Escherichia Coli is another environmental bacteria that is often associated with housed cows.
  • Contagious Bacteria – contaminates the teats during the milking process, they are found in infected udders and on damaged skin of the udder. The most common contagious bacteria is Staphylococcus Aureus, this is most common later in the season.


How do we treat Mastitis?

Mastitis is infection and inflammation of the udder so we need to treat both.

We use antibiotics to treat the bacterial causes of mastitis. These antibiotics are either intra-mammary or injectable and the drug chosen depends on which bacteria is causing the problem, because of the seasonal pattern of mastitis we usually make that decision based on the time of year;

  • Early season and calving mastitis – most likely environmental Strep Uberis
  • Late season mastitis – most likely contagious Staph Aureus

We use anti-inflammatory drugs to treat the pain and inflammation that mastitis causes. A group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are the most common choice. This relieves the pain and inflammation, allowing for a quicker recovery.


How do we prevent Mastitis?

To prevent the different types of mastitis we need to stop the different types of bacteria from getting access to the teat canals of the udder.

  • Environmental mastitis prevention – Calve cows in clean paddocks or pads, avoid standing milking cows in muddy paddocks/yards/lanes, teat spray after milking, use teat sealants at dry off and teat seal heifers.
  • Contagious mastitis prevention – Prevent teat end damage, milk infected cows last and separately to uninfected cows, wear gloves when milking, teat spray after milking and use effective dry cow therapy for infected cows.


How can Selwyn Rakaia Veterinary Services help with Mastitis on your farm?

  • We have a trained healthy udder vet who can help diagnose mastitis problems.
  • On farm training for staff on recognising and treating mastitis.
  • We offer advice on which treatments would be suitable for use on your farm and how to best use them.
  • Milk cultures to establish which bacteria are causing mastitis on your farm.

Selwyn-Rakaia Vet Services Ltd

Selwyn Rakaia Veterinary Services Ltd is a locally owned veterinary business servicing predominantly dairy farms in Canterbury. Our team of staff include veterinarians, rural animal technicians, vet nurses and administration staff.