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Mastitis of Dairy Cows: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

  • Subject: Science
  • Category: Zoology
  • Essay Topic: Cows
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 1080
  • Published: 25 October 2021
  • Downloads: 31
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Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland in the udder. It occurs as bacteria enter the udder and cause damage to milk secreting ducts and tracts in the udder. Usually occurs when bacteria enter the udder through the teat canal. Mastitis can cause shirt term and permanent damage to the udder of a cow. “If cows recover from mastitis there can be a severe problems for the rest of the lactation” (AHBD Dairy, 2019). Mastitis comes in many forms which include clinical, sub clinical, chronic, e-coli, per acute, acute and sub-acute mastitis. Cows can become infected with the disease through many ways. Hygiene is the most important way of controlling mastitis within a dairy herd. It can be spread cow-to-cow, poor bedding bad milk hygiene practises and not milking out the cow thoroughly. Cows that have been infected with mastitis will usually have a higher somatic cell count than cows that have not been infected. The use of antibiotics should be limited to cases that are severe, it is said that prevention is the best course of action.

Causes of mastitis in dairy cows

Bad milking practises when milking cows has a major role with cows becoming infected with mastitis. A set procedure should be set out when milking cows, there teats should be washed, and dried before placing on the cup. Wearing gloves can also help to reduce the chances of a cow been infected with mastitis. Teat dip should be also used after “manufacturers have developed highly efficacious germicidal products that reduce the incidence of mastitis by 50 to 95%” (Nickerson, 2001). During the drying of period of a cows lactation it is advisable to us dry cow tubes and teat sealer to avoid any the teat from contracting any dirt in the milk secreting ducts. In periods of dry weather farmers should not wash teats as wet teats are more likely to contract mastitis. Prevention is the most important way of combating mastitis. Culling cows with high SCC or that commonly contract mastitis is important. Bedding conditions are important having poor or dirty bedding will lead to a raise in mastitis. When cows are indoors cases will increase, to prevent this happening scrap and lime cubicles ever twice daily. Milking machine maintenance is very important, rubbers and liners wear this causes them to slip when placed on the teat. This in turn will allow dirt to enter the cluster. Every 2000 milking’s liners should be changed (Mastitis, n.d.)

Symptoms of mastitis

As referred to in the above paragraph mastitis comes in many forms clinical, sub clinical, chronic, e-coli, per acute, acute and sub-acute mastitis. The most oblivious symptoms are swelling, heat, hardness, redness, or pain and in the milk such as a watery appearance, flakes, clots, or pus.

For farmers a way of knowing if there is mastitis presence is to be stripping cows every day or visually inspecting there udders. Another method of knowing if mastitis is present California mastitis test (CMT). The CMT “identifies subclinical mastitis by estimating the somatic cell count (SCC) of the milk and CellCheck”. Cows with mastitis can be start to lose yield appetite and be slow in movement.

  • Clinical mastitis: Clots in milk and change of milk composition.
  • Sub-clinical mastitis: There will not be major changes to the udder it will appear well however milk composition will change and may become watery.
  • Chronic mastitis: Milk will appear watery and possibly bloody.
  • Acute mastitis: Cow will show little change but her udder can swell and inflame and pain her while producing poor quality milk.
  • E-coli mastitis: Milk will come out of cow in a whiskey colour and can be difficult to cure however there is no smell off the milk.

How to treat mastitis

Inspected the cows for mastitis this can be done by stripping before milking or visually inspecting the udder to see if there is any abnormalities. If mastitis is found to present in a cow it usually only effects one quarter but it can effect multiple quarters. The effect cow should be milked into a dump line so not to mix the milk into the main bulk tank. If infected milk is placed in the bulk tank it will reduce the overall quality of the final product leaving the yard. After identifying the infected cow mastitis tubes should be injected into the infected quarter then an antibiotic tube should be administered via the teat canal and massaged into the quarter. This milk should be withheld from the bulk tank until the withdrawal period stated on the tube is over and the infection is cured. Culling persistently affected cows can reduce overall amounts of mastitis in the herd.

How to prevent spread of mastitis

Antibiotic are not the only solution to matitus. Farmers should be looking at reducing the amount of antibiotics they administer because of antibiotic resistance can build up in the herd. As referred to before prevention is the best course of action to limit mastitis in a herd of dairy cows. Mastitis hits the farmer in the pocket finically as milk from the cow cannot be placed in the bulk tank while been administered antibiotics. A cow’s lactation after been having mastitis will be affected, yields will be down its health may also suffer and might struggle to regain the condition it once had before been effected. This could affect her fertility as body condition score may be too low. The udder tissue may be permanently damaged depending on the type of infection.


Mastitis is disease that is very common in dairy herds in Ireland but yet it is a very simple disease to prevent from happening. Hygiene in the parlour and in the yard is the most important step to prevent cow becoming infected. Farmers need to get into a having a good milking practice keeping to all the steps outlined above to prevent mastitis to a limit in the herd. Simple things like maintaining milking equipment, housing and roadways reduce chances of mastitis. Keeping the average age of the herd young will reduce the chances of mastitis. Older cows are more likely to contract the disease. Mastitis in milk effects the quality of milk, this in turn will reduce the quality of milk been sent to a creamery. The creamery pays higher for quality of the milk that is sent to them.


  • AHBD Dairy. (2019). Retrieved from
  • How to use the California Mastitis Test properly. (2015, March 3). Retrieved from Agriland:
  • Mastitis. (n.d.). Retrieved from ICBF: (, n.d.)
  • Nickerson, S. C. (2001). CHOOSING THE BEST TEAT DIP FOR MASTITIS CONTROL. Homer,Louisiana : Hill Farm Research Station.

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