FOR many herds in Cumbria that are housed all year round, reduction of environmental mastitis can be achieved by attention to detail. .

First get your vet to check the origin of the mastitis to ensure that it is environmental (eg Strep uberis) and not contagious (eg Staph aureus). The best way to do this is to take 10 samples from high SCC cows and clinical mastitis cases. This will give you a good overview of the bugs that are on your farm. Many clients ask at this point about the best mastitis tube for their farm but there is so much more that you can do with the information available.

Look at the patterns of the mastitis – the most efficient way to do this is to get your vet to put recording data into “Total vet” or “Interherd-plus”. This requires good clinical mastitis records ensuring that all cases are recorded. This then will allow your vet to assess if the problem is seasonal (housing vs. pasture management) or all year round. If the problem is environmental, most new infections can be categorised into periods of the lactation: the dry period or the lactation period. This will enable you to target the housing which is causing the most environmental mastitis.

Care of farm bedding materials. To prevent mastitis, clean inorganic materials (eg sand) are best. Organic materials (eg straw, shavings, paper products) are more complex to manage and should be stored under a waterproof cover and kept dry. Damp straw is a major risk factor for mastitis and should not be used to bed cows, it should be discarded or at least used to bed low risk animals such as young stock. Prior to bedding, straw should contain no more than 15% moisture (this can be checked using a meter if in doubt).Sand is an excellent bedding material for dairy cows, as bacterial counts are generally lower compared with those in organic bedding.

Cubicles: Within each group there must be as many cubicles as cows and ideally 5% more cubicles than cows. They should be a minimum of 1.15m(45in) wide and 2.45m (8ft) in length for Holstein Friesian cows. Ideally there should be a brisket board and no bottom rail below 0.4m and a slope of 1:20 front to back to prevent milk pooling. Dung should be removed twice a day from the back of the cubicle, and clean bedding applied once a day (sawdust) or every other day (sand).

Straw yards – This mainly applies to dry cow accommodation and as a rule of thumb there should be a bedded lying area of 1.25m2 per 1000 L of milk per cow (annual milk yield). Straw yards should be cleaned out completely once a month, disinfected and re-bedded with plenty of straw. Water troughs must not be sited in the bedded area, instead, site them in the loafing or feeding area to reduce the level of faecal contamination and increase the dryness of the straw bed.The environment should be kept clean to avoid build-up of pathogens.Automatic scrapers should be run frequently to keep alleyways clean.Good ventilation ensures a dry atmosphere and reduces bacterial numbers on the bedding by reducing pathogen survival time.