What is mastitis

what is mastitis?


So we discuss milk quality daily and often treat cows for mastitis.
Have you ever stopped and asked
what’s really happening in the udder when we say a cow has mastitis. For many years as a vet I never
really thought about the process but just labelled it mastitis.

That’s ok I suppose but what I find is when you understand the basics you can get good at the basics.
Milk quality and mastitis prevention is all about routine and consistency. Being brilliant at the basics.
So personally I think it’s good to really understand in simple terms what’s happening in the udder when
we say a cow has ‘mastitis’.

So mastitis is inflammation of the mammary gland. It is usually caused when bugs (bacteria) enter
the teat canal and go into the udder. This in return prompts the cow’s body to react to these invaders.
She will produce all these inflammatory cells which invade from her blood system into the udder.
Their role (white cells) is to destroy and inhibit the invading bacteria. This is the cow’s immune
reaction within the udder to infection.

They need (white cells) to kill the invaders quickly and then allow the normal mammary tissue to
return to the job it’s good at, producing milk. This type of response can occur at various levels and
various time frames. Often on a small scale we are none the wiser of.

When we talk about clinical mastitis this is when this happens usually on a large scale so much
so we can see the swelling in the udder with the naked eye. We can often feel heat in the affected
quarter or quarters. There will usually be a change in the consistency of the milk also again varying
with levels of bugs and levels of white cells or immune reaction. These cows can sometimes be quiet
sick also. These cows usually require antibiotic treatment and often anti-inflammatory medication also.

It is worth remembering pain is caused by this inflammation. So worth remembering ‘pain limits
performance so we should try limit pain’.

Most of the mastitis issues we deal with are subclinical meaning there is often no outward signs in
udders or in milk consistency. However in these cows there is an increase in cell count or chronic i
nflammation and also decreased milk quality. They are reservoirs of infection for other cows also and
we must identify these risk cases and put controls in place.

So when we think of and treat mastitis we must remember of these processes and reverse them in
the cow and the herd.

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