Coliform mastitis caused by Klebsiella species is a problem in New York State and at the Miner Institute. Klebsiella mastitis is particularly troublesome compared with Escherichia coli (another common cause of coliform mastitis) because of the severity of clinical episodes on milk yield and cow health, lack of an effective treatment, increased risk of culling or death, and lack of an effective vaccination program. Control of Klebsiella mastitis is based primarily on prevention. However, information on transmission cycles is needed to implement successful prevention strategies.

The Quality Milk Production Services Program within the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University has been conducting research related to Klebsiella mastitis. The Cornell researchers found that Klebsiella mastitis on New York dairies caused an average of 17 pounds of milk loss per day in the first week after diagnosis and 11 pounds of milk loss per day in the subsequent weeks.

The Miner Institute dairy farm and two other Northern New York dairy farms participated in a study to identify critical control points for Klebsiella mastitis prevention by investigating Klebsiella sources.

Klebsiella species were detected in: 

  • Manure and slurry from floors in barns, holding pens, and parlors.
  • Water samples from drinking troughs, but not from water sources.
  • TMR samples from the feeding alley.
  • Rumen content samples.
  • Used and unused bedding (wood shaving and sawdust) samples.
  • Plant and feed samples that were externally contaminated, not from endophytic colonization.
  • Soil samples from fields with and without annual manure application.

The take-home message is that Klebsiella species are found wherever manure is found!

Fecal contamination of the environment increases the risk of the teat ends to exposure of those potential pathogens. Unfortunately, the majority of healthy cows shed Klebsiella species in their feces. The researchers suggested that oral-fecal transmission due to fecal contamination of cows, feed, and water appears more important for maintenance of Klebsiella species on the dairy than does the introduction from external sources, such as bedding or feed.

It seems at this time the best way to prevent mastitis due to Klebsiella species is through improved hygiene of alleyways, holding pens and beds.

Source:  Heather Dann, W.H. Miner Institute research scientist (February issue of the Farm Report)


Quality Milk Production Services Program (QMPS) ( Zadoks, R. N., H. M. Griffiths, M. A. Munoz, C. Ahlstrom, G. J. Bennett, and E. Thomas. 2011. Sources of Klebsiella and Raoultella species on dairy farms: be careful where you walk. J. Dairy Sci. 94:1045.