Heifer hygiene for mastitis prevention

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Even for first-lactation heifers, hygiene can make a big difference in lessening the incidence of mastitis. Neil Broadwater, University of Minnesota, offers these ideas to reduce the number of mastitis-causing bacteria at the teat end:

  • Examine heifers for signs of mastitis either at the time of AI or pregnancy check when they are being handled anyway. Examine the developing udders, mammary fluid and teat skin to help identify swollen quarters, abnormal secretions and presence of teat scabs.
  • Know the “bug” you are dealing with so you can zero in on the problem. Collect and then culture aseptic milk samples from heifers that are fresh more than seven days and have clinical mastitis or high SCC to determine the bacteria source.
  •  Avoid wet, bacteria-laden areas for resting areas, whether indoors or outdoors. Heifers should calve in clean, sanitized, dry maternity pens, separated from other animals.
  • Hutches and pens for calves and heifers should be well-bedded, clean, dry and comfortable. Lots and pastures should be managed to prevent muddy areas where heiferslie down.
  • Remove any calf from a group that sucks on other calves or house calves in individual pens or hutches to prevent this.
  • Dry treat heifers before calving.


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