Managing and treating mastitis in your herd webinar questions and answers

On July 8th Willie Baillie from strategic dairy farm Hillhead of Covington was joined by esteemed vet Dr James Breen in a webinar to explore managing and treating mastitis in your herd.
Over 130 people joined online and there was lots of opportunity for questions. A full list of all the questions acommpanied with considered answers from James are listed below:

Your questions and answers

Could James make some suggestions on controlling e-coli on a sawdust and mattress system please?

If the pattern is one of environmental infection in lactation and you identify milking cow housing as an issue, control of coliforms with organic bedding such as sawdust is about bedding frequency (at least daily), addition of bedding conditioner like lime can be helpful (daily), stocking density in early lactation and building ventilation (outlet and inlet). Refer to the linked guide.

What is your opinion about raking sand beds? Can this be problematic in spreading mastitis?

The short answer is no. Not problematic in my opinion.

How we can interpret a milk sample based on somatic cell count?

This depends on why you are sampling high cell count cows? If you are seeking to better understand the pathogen profile in the herd then sample clinical cases. If you are sampling high SCC cows because prevalence is high and you want to back up the pattern with some bacteriology be careful. A few S. aureus does not mean these predominate in terms of infection pattern. Always CMT high sCC cow to find affected quarter, sample individual quarters not a bit from each quarter into one pot.

Theoretically, if William turned certain groups out during the summer do you think there would be an increase or decrease in environmental cases?

This is difficult to say it could be either or it can be associated with increased risk in some herds depending on prevalence and conditions out in paddocks (stocking density, gateways, tracks etc). As always monitoring new infections and new cases is the key to knowing if risk is increasing.

How many cloths are in use?  Cows per cloth or cloths per cow.

William: There is one cloth per cow with a few extra in case there is a dirty cow that requires two.

Is there less mastitis in the dry cows due to the sand bedding? Would you recommend sand bedding for dry cows?

I would recommend deep sand cubicles for dry cows – the risk of new infection is likely to be lower – but they need to be managed well, bedding 2-3 times weekly.

Are the cloths tested following dip in peracetic acid?

No, we wanted to evaluate washing machine cleaning.

William: we did test a cloth after dipping in peracetic and It was clear of bacteria.

Why would there be more mastitis in the winter?

This is difficult to say. It could have been related to different approaches with staff/routine/sand. It may not reflect a ‘true’ seasonality and iif anything you may have expected it the other way around…

William: my feeling is that the outbreak at this winter period was due to a problem with the disinfection of the cloths and not seasonally related.

How does Willie get sand out of slats?

William: There are two access ramps into the tank below the slats and after pumping all the liquid out we drive under with the forklift and dig the sand out. We do this annually.

Interesting to note bug counts in udder clothes. Why aren't they completely sterile?

After use they are never completely sterile. They always get a build up even with washing at 90C and addition of disinfectant. Its a bit like your dish cloth at home. Inevitably there is deterioration over time. It is just trying to monitor this and quantify it rather than looking at them and thinking they are ‘okay’.

How about putting in a chlorine tablet in with final rinse?

Yes you could add disinfectant during the wash. I would probably do this rather than soaking in disinfectant and then wiping the teats  and use a licensed pre-dip/spray with 30s contact time and then use clean spun dry cloth to wipe off.

Is there a large benefit to outside loathing areas opposed to indoor?

Probably not – it is probably more about “living space” in general, whether this is out or in – just extra space for cows that is not feed/cubicle/passageway. I would reccommend people reading more on Nottingham University's work on cow space 

Will hypochlorite be OK with the cloths instead of peracetic acid?


William: we use peracetic as there is less of a risk of milk contamination and it is less likely to dry out the cows teats, and I believe it is a faster kill time of bacteria.

Can you use quarter pro only on a modern Microsoft Excel or can you use other spreadsheets IE libra office?

The pattern analysis tool is available as a download in Excel format and is used as instructions here:

Are there specific areas of the environment you can do a test on to see if there are environmental bacteria that cause mastitis?

No – you will find all sorts in the environment so no value in swabbing areas of the cow housing. That said, sampling non-mains water 1-2 a year and asking an independent laboratory with expertise in this area to perform TBC and differential counts is likely to be important to monitor risk





Follow Hillhead of Covington story and compare your performance