Summer heat and humidity create the perfect environment for mastitis-causing bacteria, yeasts, and molds to thrive. While it’s true we can’t control the weather, there is much producers CAN do to manage the situation. With mastitis costing the dairy industry approximately $2B/year, it’s worth the extra effort to implement prevention and control measures.

Since many bacteria are transferred at milking time, it’s a good idea for all personnel to review basic milking hygiene practices (fore-stripping, pre-dip and post-dip applications, individual rather than shared paper towels, gloves while milking, etc.) and get serious about adherence. Treatment varies depending on the pathogen, but in this case that old adage “An ounce of prevention…” is absolutely true, as there is no treatment for some cases.

Additional prevention strategies include: attention to bedding, calf management, dry cow management, milking equipment maintenance, testing new herdmates, cow nutrition, proper infusion techniques, and even milking order of infected cows. Use of the DHIA ‘Hot Sheet’ and culling can be critical strategies for combating mastitis. There are many well managed farms with low somatic cell counts year round, proving mastitis control is possible even during the summer.

Varying treatment protocols make it imperative to figure out which pathogen is causing the problem. You can’t treat it if you haven’t identified it! As a result of differing management practices from farm-to-farm, each herd has its own bacterial profile. Once the bacterial profile is identified, control programs can be implemented.

To learn more about mastitis prevention and control visit http://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/author/p/petersson-wolfe-christina-res.html and http://sequalitymilk.com/resources/.