What to Know About Coliform Mastitis

The dairy industry continues its struggle to control coliform mastitis, which was found to be the source of up to 50 percent of mastitis infections on U.S. dairy herds in 2017.¹ The consequences can be devastating, with research indicating a cost of $444 per clinical case of mastitis during the first 30 days in milk.²

Producers can suffer economic losses from clinical mastitis such as added labor, discarded milk, antibiotic treatment, production loss, veterinarian costs, culling and death (see Figure 1).³ In fact, clinical mastitis has been identified as the most common cause of death in adult dairy cows.²

Coliform mastitis infections can arise anytime during a cow’s lactation, but the highest risk period is early to peak lactation. Older, higher-producing cows are especially susceptible. Fortunately, producers can take steps toward prevention and control.

Focus on cleanliness

“Environmental pathogens that cause coliform mastitis can be found anywhere manure comes in contact with the udder,” said Dr. Linda Tikofsky, senior associate director of dairy professional veterinary services, Boehringer Ingelheim. She said producers can minimize mastitis risk by :⁴

  • Providing an ample supply of dry, clean bedding that is frequently groomed;
  • Refraining from overcrowding and/or overgrazing;
  • Managing water tanks, feeding areas and walkways to eliminate standing water or excess manure that might splash onto the udder; and
  • Ventilating barns to limit heat stress and the spread of bacteria

Implement a vaccination protocol

Vaccination can help reduce the severity and incidence of coliform mastitis.⁵ “I recommend vaccinating all cows at dry-off, then giving a booster vaccine two to four weeks later,” said Dr. Tikofsky. “If you’re struggling with an outbreak or it’s simply more convenient, you can also vaccinate the entire herd at once. Just don’t forget to give a booster. The vaccine you choose should have a short meat withdrawal and provide protection against E. coli, endotoxemia caused by E. coli and Salmonella Typhimurium. A veterinarian can help create a protocol that is best suited to your operation’s needs.”

Be prepared for an infection

Even with the best practices in place, mastitis infections will still happen. When mild or moderate clinical mastitis cases occur, Dr. Tikofsky recommends taking a milk sample, culturing and waiting 24 hours for results before treating. “Culturing can be done without a negative effect on cure rate or animal welfare in cases of mild or moderate mastitis,” she explained. “If you think you’re experiencing a coliform mastitis outbreak, work with your veterinarian to identify and address the cause.”