Mastitis in Cattle: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Mastitis is a common and costly disease in dairy cattle that causes inflammation of the mammary gland. The disease can result in decreased milk production, decreased milk quality, and even loss of the cow in severe cases.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of mastitis is essential for every dairy farmer to maintain herd health and productivity.

Causes of Mastitis in Cattle

Mastitis in cattle is primarily caused by bacterial infection. The most common bacteria that cause mastitis are Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, and Escherichia coli.

The infection can enter the mammary gland through the teat canal during milking or through injuries to the udder caused by rough handling, biting, or kicking. Poor hygiene practices and dirty environments can also increase the risk of mastitis in cows.

Symptoms of Mastitis in Cattle

Mastitis can be acute or chronic and can affect one or more quarters of the udder. The symptoms of mastitis in cattle include:

  • Swelling and heat in the udder
  • Hardening of the udder
  • Painful udder
  • Abnormal milk
  • Reduced milk production
  • Fever and depression

The symptoms of mastitis in cattle can vary depending on the severity and type of infection. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

Swollen, hard, or painful udder

One of the most apparent symptoms of mastitis in cattle is a swollen, hard, and painful udder. The udder may feel hot to the touch and tender, and the cow may show discomfort or reluctance to be milked.

Abnormal milk

Infected quarters of the udder may produce abnormal milk that can be discolored, thick, lumpy, or bloody. The milk may also contain clots or have a foul odor.

Reduced milk production

Mastitis can lead to a decrease in milk production, which can be a significant economic loss for dairy farmers. The reduction in milk yield may be gradual or sudden, depending on the severity of the infection.

Fever and depression

Cows with mastitis may also develop a fever and show signs of depression, such as reduced appetite and lethargy.

Changes in udder appearance

The udder may appear red or inflamed, and the teats may be sore or cracked. In severe cases, the udder may develop abscesses or discharge pus.

High somatic cell count (SCC)

Subclinical mastitis can also occur in cows, where the udder does not show any visible symptoms, but the milk has an elevated SCC. A high SCC indicates an increased number of white blood cells, which is a sign of infection.

It’s crucial to monitor cows regularly for any signs of mastitis, as early detection and prompt treatment can prevent the spread of infection and minimize the impact on milk production.

Types

Understanding the type of mastitis present in a herd is important for effective treatment and prevention strategies. Regular monitoring and testing for mastitis can help identify the type and severity of the infection and guide appropriate management practices.

Clinical mastitis

This type of mastitis is characterized by visible symptoms such as swelling, heat, pain, and abnormal milk. The milk may be discolored or contain clots, and the udder may feel hot and tender to the touch.

Subclinical mastitis

This type of mastitis does not show any visible symptoms, and the milk may appear normal. However, the milk from infected quarters will contain higher somatic cell counts (SCC) than healthy quarters.

Chronic mastitis

This is a long-term, persistent infection that does not respond well to treatment. Chronic mastitis is often caused by Staphylococcus aureus and can lead to a decrease in milk production and quality.

Environmental mastitis

This type of mastitis is caused by bacteria that live in the cow’s environment, such as E. coli and Streptococcus uberis. It often occurs in cows that are kept in dirty or wet conditions.

Contagious mastitis

This type of mastitis is caused by bacteria that can be spread from cow to cow during milking, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae. Contagious mastitis is highly infectious and can spread rapidly through the herd.

Mycotic mastitis

This is a rare type of mastitis caused by fungal infections, such as Aspergillus and Candida. It is often difficult to diagnose and treat and can lead to a decrease in milk production and quality.

Prevention

Preventing mastitis in cattle is essential to maintain herd health and productivity. Here are some preventative measures that farmers can take:

  • Maintaining good hygiene practices during milking
  • Regular cleaning of the milking equipment
  • Providing a clean and dry environment for the cows
  • Regularly checking the udder for signs of infection
  • Culling cows with chronic mastitis
  • Implementing a vaccination program
  • Treatment of Mastitis in Cattle

Prompt and effective treatment of mastitis is essential to prevent the spread of the infection and minimize the impact on milk production. Treatment of mastitis in cattle usually involves the use of antibiotics.

The choice of antibiotics will depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection. In severe cases, the veterinarian may also recommend anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers to relieve pain and inflammation.

Conclusion

Mastitis is a significant problem in dairy cattle that can have severe economic consequences. Understanding the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of mastitis is essential for every dairy farmer to maintain herd health and productivity.

Implementing preventative measures, regular monitoring, and prompt treatment can help prevent and control mastitis in cattle.

Leave a Reply