Bovine mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland in dairy cattle, is one of the most costly diseases impacting the dairy industry worldwide. It results in significant economic losses for farmers due to reduced milk production, treatment costs, premature culling and milk discarded due to antibiotic residues.
Causes of Mastitis
Bovine Mastitis is usually caused by bacterial infections entering the teat canal of the udder, with Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae being the most common pathogens. The teat end is normally sealed by keratin, but physical or chemical damage to the teat skin allows entry of environmental bacteria during milking. Poor teat sanitation, damaged liner inserts in the milking machine and unhygienic milking practices help the bacteria infect the udder. Other predisposing factors include overmilking, injury to the udder and teats, and stress due to calving, transportation or poor housing and bedding.
Effects of the Disease
Clinical mastitis is characterized by abnormal milk, swelling and hardness of the udder. Subclinical or minor forms may not show any visible signs but lead to increased somatic cell counts in milk indicative of infection and inflammation. Both forms reduce milk production due to damaged mammary tissues and cells. Severe persistent infections may lead to premature culling of the cow. Milk from infected cows has altered composition and is unsuitable for human consumption due to the risk of antibiotic residues or infectious pathogens. Extra handling and treatment costs add to the economic losses.
Prevention and Control
Herd management practices play a key role in mastitis prevention. Periodic staff training on proper milking hygiene protocols can significantly reduce new infection risks. Careful monitoring of milking equipment performance and regular maintenance is vital. Post-milking teat disinfection using iodine or other disinfectants kills pathogens adhering to the teat skin. Dry cow therapy with intramammary antibiotics at the end of lactation helps cure existing infections and protects the unmilked udder during the dry period. Proper udder preparation, rapid and gentle milking without overmilkng, and practicing good housing and milking parlor hygiene reduces new infection risks.
Breeding for improved udder conformation and genetic resistance also complements management practices. Vaccines against common mastitis pathogens like S. aureus and S. agalactiae are available but require regular boosters for sustained protection. Herd level intervention like antibiotic therapy for clinical cases needs to be supplemented with careful culled and culling decisions to limit the spread of mastitis in herds from chronic carriers.
Mastitis Monitoring and Control programs
Dairy farmers, extension scientists and veterinarians have devised several Mastitis Control Programs to effectively monitor, control and prevent the spread of mastitis. The California Mastitis Test is a simple, affordable field test using alkaline solutions to identify early subclinical cases for prompt treatment. Compulsory monitoring of Somatic Cell Counts by milk testing laboratories alerts farmers about herd infection levels. Computerized record systems help track antibiotic treatments and culling decisions over time.
Herd Health Programs developed cooperatively between farmers, veterinarians and extension scientists recommend systematic monitoring of incidence rates, pathogen prevalence and milk losses. Best practices are identified and promoted through farm visits, trainings and policy guidelines. Regional and national Mastitis Control Councils conduct research, develop advisory materials and spread awareness about economic impacts and integrated prevention strategies. Dairy Co-operatives play an important role in enforcing milk quality guidelines and hygiene compliance from member farms.
Bovine mastitis poses huge economic challenges for the dairy industry worldwide. Multifaceted preventive strategies addressing animal husbadry, milking hygiene, veterinary health and genetic factors need to be adopted systematically on farms. Regional and national programs are crucial for coordinating research, monitoring spread and adoption of control practices. Collective efforts are required from farmers, veterinarians, extension scientists and policymakers to reduce the burden of this costly disease. With improved management practices and genetic progress, it is possible to curb mastitis losses and boost profitability of dairy farms globally.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it