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My Top Recommendations For Preventing Mastitis

Keeping Does Healthy During Gestation

As many of you know, last year didn’t start out so great. Shortly after my beloved jersey, Sukey, calved, she came down with a severe case of mastitis. It ended up being a type of mastitis called Staph A that is incredibly difficult, and a lot of times impossible, to treat. We tried everything with Sukey and in the end none of it was enough. We had made the very difficult decision to cull her (we were fearful she would spread the staph A to the rest of our herd), but unfortunately before that could happen she got in with the bulls and a bull broke her back. It was all incredibly sad and hard, but I learned a lot of very valuable lessons. One being, some of the lesser known steps for preventing mastitis, before it even starts. So in this post I want to take you through some of my top recommendations for preventing mastitis in your family milk cow. 

Prevention Starts Before You Buy

I know, I know. We all know we should be asking the question, “has this cow ever had mastitis before?” But sometimes even asking that question is not enough. Yes, you will hopefully get an honest answer of yes or no, but even then, mastitis can be something called sub clinical, meaning it shows no symptoms. The only real way to know if a cow you are buying is clear of mastitis is to send a milk culture to the lab. A lab culture will give you a definitive answer on if the cow is clear or not and if they are not, what type of mastitis they have. It was estimated in 2007 that 43% of dairy farms in the USA had Staph A in their herds. That is a significant number and the more and more I do this work of family milk cow education, the more and more stories I hear from people about cows that have unintentionally been purchased with Staph A. 

Another significant thing to think about before you buy your cow is how many working quarters do they have? I bought Sukey with 3 working quarters and truth be told, I didn’t know that until I got her home. Not only is this indicative of her probably having an infection before (it could have been caused from injury or something as well), but it also leaves you with one less teat and if you end up struggling with mastitis or a quarter later on, you can potentially end up with a 2 quartered cow and that is just not feasible for a lot of people. So my recommendation is to always buy a cow that has 4 working quarters.

Use a Post Teat Dip

A post teat dip is a diluted iodine dip. The purpose of it is to prevent bacteria from entering into the teat canals in the first 20 min or so after milking. This is important because after milking, those teat canals don’t seal back up for at least 20 minutes and this can leave your cow at increased risk of having bacteria enter into the udder. For example, if they go and lay in poop directly after milking, the chance of mastitis is a lot higher without the protection of a teat dip. Calves actually have something in their saliva that prevents bacteria from being able to get through these teat canals and that is why we don’t have to worry about this as much when cows have calves on them. 

Keep Bedding Dry and Clean

It’s important to have dry, clean areas for milk cows to lay in. Sure you can’t keep everything dry and clean, but if they have the option of dry bedding to lay in, the chances of external bacteria getting into the udder is much less. 

Use Clean Techniques When Milking

We all know that we have to wash our cows udder before milking to keep the milk clean, but this is also important in preventing mastitis. For example, say you are just milking for the pigs or the chickens, you have no intention of taking the milk into the house for human consumption, you might choose not to wash your cows udder off, and this can cause an increased risk for infection. Just as you want to limit the chance of bacteria getting into the teat canals after milking, you also want to limit the chance of it getting in during milking. So no matter what… wash the udder off before milking! 

My current favourite way to pre wash my cow is with baby wipes. I have done quite a bit of reading on the risk of mastitis when wet washing a cows udder. In the past, I have always taken a container of warm soapy water down to the barn to wash the udder and I will still do this if she is exceptionally dirty. Recommended practice however is not to use water when possible. The reason for this is that water flows to the lowest point, the lowest point on an udder is the teat canal. Washing a cows udder with water can potentially cause bacteria that is high up, to drain directly to the end of the teat and creates a higher risk of mastitis. The recommended practise is to use dry disposable cloths and a pre teat dip. I haven’t moved to using a pre teat dip, but I have started using baby wipes and for now, this is working well for me. (Talk to me when the weather turns muddy though!)

Prevent Cross Contamination Between Cows

This is pretty self explanatory but isolate cows from the herd that have an active infection and use clean milking practices. Also though it’s impossible sometimes, do your best to limit flies by using fly traps and fly spray. Flies can carry infection such as Staph A between animals. 

Access to Loose Minerals

A cow that is at her healthiest will be less likely to develop an infection and better apt at fighting any infections that arise. Always provide access to good quality feed and loose minerals. As well, use body condition scoring as a tool to help you determine if you need to change anything in your cows diet to keep them at their healthiest. 


If you end up having to put your cow on antibiotics, also provide them with some probiotics. You can buy these at the vet or feed store or some people recommend doing a cud transfer from a healthy cow. (Take some of the cud from your healthy cow and put it in the mouth of the unhealthy cow.) Gut flora is everything in helping your cow fight off infections! 

Consider Dry Up Medications for High Risk Cows

Drying up your milk cow for calving can be a high risk time for mastitis, especially in cows that are prone to it. Consider researching different dry up medications for prone to mastitis cows or cows that are very high producing. These dry up medications should also help them prevent mastitis during their dry season, which once their udder starts swelling as they approach calving, and the teats start dripping, can be a very high risk time for mastitis. Synergy products have some more natural dry up medication choices. 

Keep These Things in Your Vet Kit

Dynamint Cream – At the first sign of mastitis, rub this on. A lot of times it will stop mastitis in its tracks.

CMT Test – Early detection is key for prevention. If you can catch a mastitis infection really early on, you are much more likely to be able to treat it without antibiotics.

Synergy Products – Synergy is a line of natural mastitis treatments. I recommend keeping several of them on hand, as if you need them, you won’t want to wait for them to ship to you. My favourites are Excel 7000, Yellow Jacket and I want to get some Superior Cow Cream because I have heard good things about it!

The post My Top Recommendations For Preventing Mastitis first appeared on Cheese From Scratch.


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