Not A Magic Bullet, But A Bullet Against Mastitis None The Less
Every dairy knows the losses that happen when a cow in their herd experiences a case of mastitis. Those losses come at a real cost, in treatment cost, replacement cost and most importantly the cost of decreased saleable milk both through decreased production and due to treated milk withholdings (discarded milk accounts for 50% of the cost). Depending on the study, the cost of a clinical mastitis is said to be around $180 and up to $378 (1991 study). So the dollars show that addressing mastitis is an importance for the economic health of the dairy, not to mention the well being for the cow. While there is no magic bullet, the following questions and answers may start an individual thinking and discussing with their herd veterinarian on how to address the all too common disease of mastitis.
Q. What is the most important thing to do for mastitis in my herd?
A. Prevention: keeping the cow clean and dry while she eats, drinks and lies in her stall plus milking with proper milking techniques and properly maintained milking equipment are some of the key factors to address when looking to prevent mastitis.
Q. What are some other ways to prevent or decrease mastitis, a magic bullet?
A. Knowing that coliform mastitis causes up to 40% of the cases of mastitis, strategically using core antigen vaccine technology such as J-5 or J-VAC can reduce incidence and severity of coliform mastitis. Note, that while it may not always totally prevent, a vaccinated cow will not get as sick as one not vaccinated if infected with coliform bacteria. It should also be noted that this vaccine will do nothing to prevent gram positive bacteria such as Staph aureus or strep species. One last note, it is not a magic bullet, but vaccinating sure helps!
Q. What do you mean by strategically using mastitis vaccine?
A.The strategy is both when to use it in the cow’s lactation and how many vaccinations to give to a particular cow. The most rewarding use of this vaccine is to vaccinate the cow as she is going dry, 2-4 weeks later, and again at 2 weeks post calving. If a cow is only given 1 shot, her protection only goes up 10%, 2 shots give her a 30-40% jump in protection and the 3rd shot will increase protection to 60-80%.
Q. What are the economic gains?
A. Knowing that a clinical case of mastitis has had a value of $180-$378 per case placed upon it, decreasing 60-80% of coliform clinicals makes sense. One study from The Journal of Dairy Science showed that vaccinated cows milked 16.7 pounds more milk per day in the 21 days following a clinical case of mastitis versus non-vaccinated cows. Figures show that a cow vaccinated with three shots of J-5 vaccine would yield $57 additional dollars in additional profit per cow per lactation. Another way to economically look at it is, how many toxic downer cows would pay for the herd to be properly vaccinated.
Q. What if I want to get protection to my herd as soon as possible?
A. While vaccinating the dry/pre-fresh/post-fresh cow is the best, implementing whole herd in the spring would time out to give good protection during the heat of the summer, when coliform mastitis is typically the most concern. While the benefits are still there with this strategy, expect approximately a 7% milk decrease a day or two following vaccinating.
Q. How long does protection last following three shots of vaccine?
A. Unlike vaccines designed for viral infection protection, core antigen mastitis vaccines tend to hold protection for around 90 days and decrease after that. This brings up the importance of revaccinating 3 times at each dry period or if doing whole herd, each spring. There are discussions on increasing the number of vaccinations to 4, 5 or 6 shots but the economical return has not be evaluated. If considering using more than the 3 shot strategy, talk with your herd veterinarian first.
Hopefully this question and answer format was helpful in knowing what bullets work best in the prevention of coliform mastitis. Load up the gun, the vaccination gun that is!