Everyone on the dairy plays a role in preventing mastitis — it’s not just the milkers’ job.

How you handle manure, the type of bedding used and the maintenance of stalls are all part of preventing a type of mastitis known as environmental mastitis.

Providing a clean environment in the free-stall barn — or wherever else the cows are housed — is the best way to prevent environmental mastitis. Germs that cause environmental mastitis grow in moisture, mud and manure. The dirtier a facility is, the more germs you will have.

Here is what you can do to prevent environmental mastitis:

1. Maintain clean stalls 

Provide clean dry bedding for cows one to two times per week. If a cow lies down in a dirty stall, her udder gets wet or dirty and more germs have the chance to infect the udder, causing mastitis. Bedding materials are a major source of germs.

The type of bedding used can also influence mastitis. Bedding that is high in organic matter, such as straw and sawdust, holds more moisture. Sand is low in organic matter and holds less moisture. Moisture encourages the growth of germs that cause mastitis.

Regardless of the kind of bedding material, it is important to keep stalls clean.

2. Keep alleyways and lanes clean

It is important to keep cow lots, housing and traffic areas clean and dry. If alleyways are not scraped on a regular basis, manure will splatter up onto the udder when a cow walks. More manure on a cow’s udder means there is more chance for germs to get into the teat end and cause mastitis. Scraping alleyways every time cows are milked will prevent this from happening.

Less manure on the cow’s udder also makes it easier for the milkers to do a high-quality job.

Move cows slowly to the parlor. Do not rush them. Making them rush will cause more manure to splash onto the teats and udder.

Do not flush the alleyways while cows are walking back from the milking parlor or while they are standing right after milking. After the cows are milked, it takes about 30 minutes before the muscle in the teat canal closes completely. If manure and water splash up on the udder before the teat canal closes, germs can work their way into the udder and cause mastitis.

3. Do not overstock pens

Make sure pens are not overstocked. Overstocked pens create more manure and are more difficult to keep clean.

A clean, well-kept facility will reduce mastitis and help you produce high-quality milk.