What you need to know:
- Mastitis causes farmers substantial economic losses. Dr Brian Arinaitwe, a livestock expert, says an average clinical case of mastitis costs the dairy producer approximately Shs700,000 in management.
Scientists agree that a dairy cow without a healthy udder will give a farmer less milk. This is simply because the objective of the farmer keeping a cow is to get milk and the part of the cow that gives them milk is the udder.
According to Dr Brian Arinaitwe of Zoetis, an animal health company that develops and manufactures veterinary vaccines and medicines, diagnostic products, genetic tests and bio devices, among others, farmers need to be cautious of the cow udder health.
“Farmers need to ensure that the cow’s udder is healthy. A sick udder is what we call mastitis,” he says.
But he is concerned that most farmers are not aware since they do not screen their cows. But he says that out of the 10 cows they have screened, six come out positive.
Mastitis, according to Dr Arinaitwe, can be avoided by keeping the environment clean, hygienic milking conditions and constantly screening for mastitis. They can screen by observing the udder, blood clots in the milk. This in most cases is clinical mastitis. But there are other forms that cannot be observed physically.
Mastitis is one of the most significant diseases of dairy cattle, according to Dr Brian Arinaitwe of Zoetis.
He says that most cow herds are faced with a challenge of mastitis which can affect farm earnings. He says, mastitis reduces milk production and milk quality. Dr Arinaitwe says that mastitis causes farmers substantial economic losses. He says, an average clinical case of mastitis costs the dairy producer approximately Shs700,000 in management explaining that this is among the top three reasons why farmers cull dairy cows.
In addition, mastitis adversely affects reproductive performance of dairy cows. On average, he says, it takes 40 days longer to get cows pregnant that have had a case of mastitis compared to herd mates. He says that treatment of clinical cases not only costs the producer, it also increases the risk of antibiotic residue.
“The milk may be rejected by buyers as it does not have a good taste,” Dr Arinaitwe says.
Mastitis is an infectious disease condition resulting in an inflammatory reaction in the mammary gland of the cow.
On average, he says, if a cow is giving you 20 litres, in a year you can lose up to Shs600,000 in mastitis.
He says that it is the most common disease in dairy cattle ranging from mild conditions to severe conditions due to increased inflammatory cells (somatic cells) in the milk which affects gross changes in the milk. Mastitis may be accompanied by signs of inflammation in the mammary gland including swelling, redness, and painfulness. In severe cases, he says signs including fever, depression, and “off-feed” and even death may occur.
Mastitis-causing pathogens include bacteria and Mycoplasmas. According to Arinaitwe, there is contagious mastitis which is transmitted from cow to cow during the milking process; and environmental infections which are acquired from bacteria in the environment of the cow.
In subclinical mastitis, Dr Arinaitwe says the milk appears normal and there is no visible sign of inflammation of the mammary gland. Diagnosis of subclinical mastitis will be made on the basis on an increase in somatic cell counts in the milk. In clinical mastitis, depending on the type of pathogens involved, fever and depression could be associated with the disease. By observation, there is evidence of mammary gland inflammation such as redness, heat, swelling and pain. He adds that there are physical changes in the milk with a few milk clots.
In the case of acute mastitis, clinical signs include fever, depression and loss of appetite. The udder is swollen, hard and painful while the milk may contain clots and can be watery.
Early in the disease, the gland is red, swollen and warm but within a few hours the teat becomes cold. In severe cases, it can lead to death.
Prevention and treatment
Dr Arinaitwe says that control of mastitis is based on prevention of infections. The recommended practices include proper use of milking machines, pre- and post-milking teat disinfection, dry cow therapy at the end of lactation, use of teat sealants, culling of cows with chronic mastitis and vaccination to prevent infections.
For mild to moderate cases of mastitis, the preferred route of treatment is with an intra-mammary mastitis tube. He says that the antibiotics in mastitis tubes kill the bacteria that are exposed to adequate concentrations of antibiotic.
For cows with severe clinical mastitis, an appropriate antibiotic should be part of the therapy. But the starting point is the CMT test, a screening test before milking which enables farmers to identify the cows that are at risk. The CMT bottle can be bought at Shs100,000 and can be used for more than six months on 20 cows.
“This helps you to avoid mixing milk from infected cows before you take it to the dairy because first of all this milk will be rejected. Even when they make products such as cheese or yoghurt, they will not be nice products. It also helps you to intervene early enough before it can lead to further losses,” he says. Dr Arinaitwe explains that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mastitis treatment.
“Explore options for flexible mastitis treatment that not only knock out physical mastitis symptoms but also eliminate mastitis-causing bacteria to achieve a bacteriological cure. When you achieve a bacteriological cure the first time, you limit the need for re-treatment and using additional antibiotics. This is important for the health of your cows as well as critical for your dairy’s bottom line,” he says.
Dr Arinaitwe says Zoetis, a leading animal health company, is dedicated to supporting farmers with affordable solutions. Building on the network of two sole distributors Eram Uganda in Container Village and Bakuli and Vet Centre at Old Kampala, Zoetis serves veterinarians and livestock producers its products that include intramammalies which are used to treat sick animals and for dry cow therapy. They also avail teat sealants to prevent pathogens from entering the udder as well as the test kits for detecting mastitis.