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Troubleshooting a Mastitis Problem Herd

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Reviewed January 2009

J.W. Schroeder, Extension Dairy Specialist

Do you have a herd mastitis problem? If your bulk tank SCC is 750,000 or greater, you are in danger of losing your milk market. Since mastitis can be caused by man, machine, and the cows' environment, all items must be checked to determine its cause.

Using a bulk tank report

One of the most accurate methods of diagnosing problems is with a bulk tank analysis, but before any drastic measures are taken, a second bulk tank sample should be taken -- several days apart. A sample report is included (Figure 1.) for reference only, and accompanying explanations (Table 1 and Table 2.) are provided for your use in determining the problem and how to solve it.

Table 1. This table will aid In the interpretation of your bulk tank analysis. Good management procedures are probably being practiced when results are within the normal levels. Hygiene procedures should be evaluated when results exceed these levels.

Contagious Bacteria Normal Levels Moderate Levels High Levels Control
Staphylococcus
(coagulase +)
0 100-400 > 500 Teat dipping and dry cow therapy
Streptococcus agalactiae 0 100-5000 > 6000 Teat dipping and dry cow therapy
Streptococcus dysgalactiae < 500 500-1000 > 1000 Teat dipping and dry cow therapy
Corynebactenum < bovis 500 500-1000 > 1000 Teat dipping and dry cow therapy
Mycoplasma Negative Positive Positive Teat dipping and culling
Environmental Bacteria Normal Levels Moderate Levels High Levels Control
Streptococcus
uberis
< 500 500-1000 > 1000 Milk clean dry udders, pre-dip*
Coliforms < 500 500-1000 > 1000 Milk clean dry udders pre-dip*
Misc. (Bacillus, Pseudomonas, etc.) < 300 400-1000 > 1000 Milk clean dry udders pre-dip*
Staphylococcus (coagulase - ) 500 600-1000 > 1000 Milk clean dry udders pre-dip*
Milk Quality Tests Normal Medium High Indicator of:
Lab. Pasteurized Count < 1000 1500 > 1500 Dirty milking equipment - check wash-up procedures
Somatic Cell Count (X 1000) 200 300-400 > 500 Udder health in the herd.
Standard Plate Count < 10,000 20-40,000 750,000 # of visible bacteria in milk sample
P.I. Count < 10,000 20-40,000 750,000 Milk-keeping properties and sanitation on dairy.

*Remember pre-dipping has been proven only on clean, dry udders.

Table 2. Bulk tank bacterial types, with common sources and modes of spread and control therapy.

Contagious Bacteria Source Means of Spread Control

Staphylococcus
(coagulase +) aureus

Infected udders, teat lesions, udder skin, etc. Cow to cow by contaminated udder wash rags, teat cups, hands, etc. Teat dipping and dry cow therapy.
Streptococcus agalactiae (causes high somatic cell counts) Infected udders Cow to cow by contaminated udder wash rags, teat cups, hands, etc. Teat dipping and dry cow therapy.
Streptococcus dysgalatiae Infected udders, feces, skin Cow to cow by contaminated udder wash rags, teat cups, hands, etc. Teat dipping and dry cow therapy cow therapy; milk clean, dry udders.
Corynebacterium bovis Teat canal Inhabits the teat canal. Appears in tank milk when cows are not prestripped. Teat dipping and dry cow therapy.
Mycoplasma Infected udders, contaminated antibiotic mixes in bottles Cow to cow by contaminated udder wash rags, teat cups, hands, etc. Teat dipping use commercial tubes, not Bottle mixes. Once contracted, it is not curable.
Environmental Bacteria Source Means of Spread Control
Streptococcus uberis Numerous locations on infected udders and on the cow; hair, lips, vagina, feces,etc., as well as bedding, muddy lots, etc. Environment to cow by: wet, dirty lots and bedding;milking wet teats; poor udderpreparation Milk clean, dry udders,pre-dippingmay help.
Coliforms Manure, bedding, green sawdust Environment to cow by: wet, dirty lots and bedding; milking wet teats; poor udder preparation Milk clean,dry udders, pre-dipping may help.
Bacillus, Pseudomonas, etc. Hoses, dirty water, milk, manure, bedding, etc. Environment to cow by: wet, dirty lots and bedding; miking wet teats; poor udder preparation Milk clean, dry udders, pre-dipping may help, replace wash hoses.
Staphylococcus spp.:
(coagulase -) epidermidis,
Hyicus micrococcus, etc.
Normal inhabitant of udder skin Poor udder preparation, milking wet udders and teats Milk clean, dry udders.

Figure 1. Record your bulk tank milk sample analysis and file for future reference.

Contagious Bacteria: Record of Lab Results Ideal Range
Staphyoccus (Coagulase Positive) ____________ 0
Streptococcus agalactiae ____________ 0
dysgalactiae ____________ 0 - 500
Corynebacterium ____________ 0 - 500
Mycoplasma (7 day test) ____________ Negative
Environmental Bacteria: Record of Lab Results Ideal Range
Streptococcus uberis ____________ 0 - 500
Coliforms ____________ 0 - 500
Bacillus ____________ 0 - 500
Other: Staphyloccus
(Coagulase Negative)
____________ 0 - 500
Contagious Bacteria: Record of Lab Results Ideal Range
Lab Pasteurized Count ____________ 0 - 1,000
Somatic Cell Count ____________ 0 - 200,000
Standard Plate Count ____________ 0 - 10,000
P. I. Count ____________ 0 - 10,000

Adapted by Bray and Shearer, University of Florida