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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Replacement heifer mastitis Is a prevalent problem in dairy herds.

Dairy Pipeline: November 1996

by Tom Bailey
Dairy Production Medicine
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Virginia Tech

Heifers do acquire infections during the development period and will freshen with mastitis and increased somatic cell counts. To date, continuous investigative work by researchers around the country have not identified a specific time period for the introduction of mastitis causing organisms. Hiefers may acquire infection while in hutches, after weaning, during the breeding period, and in late gestation. Specific management schemes that may aid in the reduction of mastitis in heifers have been identified. These include segregation of heifer calves at birth in individual calf hutches, fly control to reduce the transfer of mastitis bacteria to the teats of the calf, raising calves in clean and dry environments, making sure heifers are on a good nutritional program , keeping close-up heifers segregated from dry cows to reduce the transfer of mastitis to the heifers, calving heifers in a clean area, and more recently dry treating heifers prior to freshening. Researchers at the Hill Farm Research Station in Louisiana have demonstrated a significant reduction in heifer mastitis with infusion of a dry cow product 60 days before freshening. These products are not approved for use in these heifers, but can be used under the supervision of a veterinarian. The teat ends should be thoroughly cleaned with an iodine dip and alcohol, the dry cow product infused, the teat would then be iodine dipped and allowed to stand for at least 1 minute, the teat is then "patted" dry with a paper towel and a barrier dip applied. The reasons for a good response is as follows: a large volume of antibiotic is infused into a small quarter, heifers do not have the scar tissue in the quarter as in older cows, and the antibiotic is long lasting. Caution should be applied as to the time frame prior to freshening to avoid antibiotic residues, and heifers should be checked for residues prior to the milk going into the tank. This procedure has greatly reduced infections that were acquired during the heifer raising period, however, will have little impact on infections that occur after freshening. Producers can examine heifer somatic cell counts with DHI records for the period "first 45 days". If SCC count scores for heifers less than 45 days in milk are greater than 100,000 or a linear score of 3 or greater, or if more than 5% of fresh heifers have clinical mastitis within the first 45 days, then heifers may be freshening with an already established mastitis infection. For more information, contact your veterinarian or extension agent for assistance.

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