Heifer mastitis can be an issue on some farms, with heifers often calving down with cases or developing them shortly after calving.
A case early into your replacement heifers‘ milk production career can be threatening to production along with udder health in the first and subsequent lactations.
If cases have been an issue in the past, you should determine possible causes of these cases and how they can be solved.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI) recommends that controls are necessary if more than 15% of heifers have a case of clinical mastitis at or around calving, or if more than 15% have a somatic cell count (SCC) of >200,000cells/ml within 35 days of calving.
Some ways of reducing the risk of heifer mastitis include: improving general udder health on the farm, by keeping cows and heifers in a clean and hygienic environment.
Any cows or heifers with skin lesions such as warts should be addressed.
At housing all the heifers should be checked so that a case has not been picked up during the summer months and not detected.
When housed, there should also be a number of management practices – stress should be kept to a minimum and first-time calvers and older cows should not be mixed.
Heifers should be trained in the milking parlour before calving so that it is not completely new to them.
When housed, controlling mastitis in your heifers is vital, with hygiene during the housed period playing a important role.
Although cows are still milking currently, when they are dry they have the added protection of a teat sealer.
Udder infections can be picked up from the environment or transmitted from one heifer or cow to another.
Along with having significant effects on udder health and lifetime milk yield, there is also an associated culling risk – particularly in cases involving major pathogens.
This impact on a farm’s profitability, as well as on the welfare of the animals, means that it is critical to prevent and manage mastitis.
If heifer mastitis has been an issue on your farm in previous years, you should discuss options with your vet.
One option to consider is teat spraying heifers with an iodine-based teat spray for a number of weeks ahead of calving. This can reduce the amount of bacteria present on the teat and teat ends.
Other measures may require investment in improving the environment that the heifers spend the winter months in ahead of calving.