Working Arena - Prevention of infection

The farm environment

Controlling mastitis through the prevention of infection is best appraised on a whole-farm basis. Many factors of the working farm environment as a whole influence how causative bacteria can spread and colonise, how cattle become exposed to infection and how working routines and farm staff have an important role in reducing mastitis incidence in the herd.

Field conditions while cows are out at grazing and the importance of good cow tracks - reducing soiling of the teats and keeping them clean and healthy - cannot be underestimated. Poor housing conditions are also instrumental in causing clinical mastitis and contributing to high Somatic Cell Counts; the effective management of housing and good working routines can help to ensure the housed environment is less supportive of pathogens. Good handling techniques reduce stress and avoid cows being rushed through doorways or gateways and down tracks which can lead to an undesirable amount of teat and udder soiling, lengthening the milking time and leading to the increased potential of mastitis.

The dry period is spectacularly poorly-managed on many dairy farms, with cows being put 'out of sight and out of mind', yet dry period management is at least as crucial as the lactation when aiming to reduce mastitis incidence in the herd.

In the parlour, well-considered and consistent routines and new technology or equipment can make a big impact on milk hygiene and how infections that lead to mastitis can be reduced. Similarly, good maintenance programmes ensure the milking equipment works correctly and that poorly-maintained equipment is not contributing to a herd mastitis problem.

Hygiene scoring is used to measure the effectiveness of cattle housing and grazing management on general cow cleanliness and hygiene.