"Most of the heifer mastitis I see is related to two things," says contract heifer grower and veterinarian Don Gardner.
Those two things are: heifers that nurse each other and biting flies that cause teat-end scabs. Gardner sees both problems on his own heifer-growing operation and on the dairies where he serves as herd veterinarian.
To control biting flies, Gardner and his son, Sam, use fly-control pour-on products and insecticide ear tags on their Huddleston, Va., operation.
"We wait until June to worm our heifers and attach the fly tags," Gardner says. "We usually see good fly control throughout the rest of the fly season."
Meanwhile, heifers that nurse each other at Gardner Heifers Inc., almost always originate from the same farm, Gardner says, and, not surprisingly, nearly always have consecutively numbered ear tags.
"That tells me that they were probably crowded and raised in the same pen because they were born about the same time," says Gardner, a DCHA founding member. "Raising two in a pen is a big risk factor for heifers nursing one another."
To stop heifers from nursing one another, they use nose guards that have spikes on them. Heifers usually break the habit after several months, Gardner says.
If heifers develop mastitis in a quarter, they receive systemic antibiotic treatment and are milked out, Gardner says. These steps are followed by several days of treatment with intramammary antibiotic therapy.
According to DCHA Gold Standards II, target treatment rates (from causes other than pneumonia) should not exceed 4% for Holstein heifers 6 to 12 months of age. A goal of less than 2% is recommended for heifers 12 months of age to freshening. These target treatment rates apply to mastitis, as well as all other non-respiratory conditions and diseases.
Always consult with your veterinarian and nutritionist for specific recommendations for your operation.