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The Moo News

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care                                                            July 2001

Hi Folks,

            Diagnosis of the month: Coliform mastitis. With the hazy, hot and humid weather, we have seen many cases of this devastating disease. Other local vets that we regularly talk with have confirmed this. The cows most susceptible are fresh cows (0-4 weeks fresh) and dry cows, although any stage of lactation can be effected. Fresh cows are under the most stress and have the least immune competence. Dry cows are stressed by late stage pregnancy. Fresh cows get it usually from a leaky teat, poor cleaning of teat ends at milking, or by flies on teat ends. Dry cows may have been carrying a low grade, chronic coliform infection that can flare up. Also dry cows aren’t watched as closely as fresh cows, so by the time a flare-up is noticed, the animal is usually real sick.

Signs of early coliform are fairly consistent: hard, swollen quarter; watery “lemonade-like” secretion; fever; slow to eat/ off-feed; dehydrated (eyes dull, somewhat sunken). Later, the cow’s temperature will be ‘normal’ (as it is falling to below normal), she will have scours, toxic eyes (whites are bloodshot—veins prominent), severe dehydration, and be too weak to get up.

            It is of utmost importance to treat these animals early to have a functional cow into the future. Coliform bacteria reproduce themselves about every 20 minutes, increasing their population in the udder rapidly. Slightly off-colored milk can become outright watery within 2-3 hours. Treatment consists of  I.V. fluids—and lots of them. Getting the cow rehydrated or keeping her hydrated is one of the key issues in addressing coliform mastitis. Simply giving a probiotic pill and waiting is not a good idea. In addition, anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin (give 5-6), or Banamine (a cousin to aspirin but 100 times as powerful; give 12-15cc I.M. or I.V.) are also key to helping your cow. Also a bottle of Vitamin C and calcium to stimulate the immune system is very important.

 The effectiveness of systemic (I.V.) and/or local antibiotic treatment is questionable, depending on which studies are read. If you want a 4-teated cow, antibiotics are usually needed, at least in my experience. If you don’t mind a 3-teated cow, then you can avoid using antibiotics. Even with antibiotics, you may still end up with a 3-teated cow—it depends how early you go to help your cow. If electing to use no antibiotics, you may have a slight chance at a 4-teater, but most likely you’ll have a really sluggish cow for quite a while. But at least there will be no milk or meat withdrawal times.

            They’re your cows, just thought I would share some information for you to consider during these summer hot spells. By the way—never give penicillin to a coliform cow—it is entirely useless. Also don’t give penicillin to a down cow just ‘to do something’. If you want to do something helpful, give aspirin. Personally I stay away from penicillin due to its very limited range of effectiveness in cattle as well as a highly variable milk and meat withholding time.

For more common mastitis (Staph/ Strep) we have an herbal product from China called Masfrigao for udder infusion. Works nicely on early cases—not necessarily on chronic/ long-standing ones. We had it analyzed at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia for any hormones or antibiotics and none were found. Therefore I feel confident about its purity and safety. How many other herbal-based products that are put in the quarter have been checked for purity??

Just remember—if using non-antibiotic approaches to a quarter with mastitis, by all means keep that quarter out of the bulk tank. This will ensure marketability of your milk as well as helping to achieve quality premium bonuses. CMT cows if you’re not sure which quarter is bad. 

***Don’t put bad quarters into the tank.***

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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