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Mastitis Vaccination of Bred Heifers

Dairy Pipeline: July 1999

Gerald M. (Jerry) Jones
Extension Dairy Scientist, Milk Quality and Milking Management
Virginia Tech
(540) 231-4764

Studies of mastitis incidence in first lactation during recent years have recognized that the incidence of infection as well as the risk of clinical mastitis in first calf heifers have been underestimated. Many heifers are infected at calving. The E. coli J5 bacterin has been found effective in reducing mastitis problems at calving in older cows. Researchers with Ohio State University immunized bred heifers with J5 at 60 days prior to anticipated calving, 28 days later, and within 48 hours of calving. At approximately 30 days in milk, vaccinated and control animals were challenged by infusing E. coli bacteria into one quarter of each animal. Although the J5 bacterin did not prevent the cow from becoming infected, the severity of clinical symptoms was reduced. The duration of mastitis was 66 hours in vaccinated cows compared to 87 hours in unvaccinated control cows. Bacteria counts in milk from challenged quarters was lower in vaccinated cows than in control cows. Vaccination of bred heifers with E. coli J5 bacterin appears to be an effective approach to reducing risk of mastitis in first lactation cows after calving. Other research proven methods of control include treatment of bred heifers with dry cow mastitis antibiotic at 60 days before anticipated calving or with lactating mastitis therapy at 7-14 days before anticipated calving, or premilking heifers beginning at 7-14 days before expected calving. Dairy producers should consult their herd veterinarian for recommendations on reducing mastitis problems in bred heifers.

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