Epidemiology of mastitis in pasture-grazed peripartum dairy heifers and its effects on productivity.
- PubMed: 17699034
An observational field study was conducted on 708 heifers in 30 spring-calving dairy herds in the Waikato region of New Zealand. The aim of the study was to describe patterns and effects of intramammary infection (IMI) and clinical mastitis (CM) in the peripartum period. Mammary secretion samples for bacteriological testing were taken from all quarters approximately 3 wk before the planned start of the calving period and within 5 d following calving, in addition to quarters diagnosed with CM within 14 d of calving. Precalving IMI was diagnosed in 18.5% of quarters, and of these, coagulase-negative staphylococci were the predominant isolate (13.5% of quarters). Streptococcus uberis prevalence increased 4-fold to 10.0% of quarters on the day of calving compared with the precalving period. Prevalence of all pathogens decreased rapidly following calving. Clinical mastitis cases were predominantly associated with Strep. uberis (64%). The daily hazard of diagnosis was higher in heifers than in cows (0.06 vs. 0.02/d on d 1 postcalving, respectively), but was not different by d 5 (0.005 vs. 0.002, respectively) of lactation. Intramammary infection with a major pathogen was associated with an increased risk of removal from the herd (15 vs. 10% for infected and noninfected heifers, respectively) and somatic cell count >200,000 cells/mL at subsequent herd tests (15 vs. 8%), but neither CM nor IMI were associated with reduced milk yield or milk solids production. Results suggest that bacterial species involved and the pattern of IMI prevalence in pasture-grazed peripartum heifers differ from those in other production systems. Further, mastitis control programs need to target major environmental pathogens causing precalving IMI, because new infections are likely before the onset of lactation, whereas existing detection and control measures are generally implemented after calving. Novel control programs that reduce new infections due to Strep. uberis immediately before calving are required to reduce the incidence of CM in pasture-grazed dairy heifers.