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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Strategies to Help Control Mastitis to be Discussed at Dairy Conference

October 30, 2001

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Effectively managing the period between lactation and calving of dairy cattle is a key to controlling mastitis, a bacterial infection that affects milk quality and production.

Richard Meiring, of Ohio State University's Clinical and Veterinary Preventive Medicine, said that it is during this time, known as the dry cow period, when mastitis is likely to develop.

"Management techniques that are conducted during lactation to prevent infections are not normally followed through during the dry cow period," said Meiring. "Traditionally farmers just turn the cows out - put them out in the field and just make sure they are happy and content. But we know now that we do need to manage the dry period much more intensely."

Meiring will discuss strategies to control mastitis during the dry cow period at the Tri-State Dairy Management Conference Nov. 7-8 in Fort Wayne, Ind. The purpose of the conference is to inform producers in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio how to effectively manage their dairy herds. Meiring is scheduled to present from 10 a.m.-noon on Nov. 8 and his discussion will include dry cow therapy, environmental management, vaccination programs and nutrient supplements.

The dry cow period is the transition between lactation and calving where farmers stop milking to allow cattle a time to rest and help milk-producing cells regenerate. It is during this period where over half of all new infections caused by environmental bacteria originate, so careful monitoring has become a significant part of controlling mastitis.

Meiring said mastitis is considered to be the most costly disease in agriculture for a number of reasons. It lowers milk production since the infection destroys milk-producing tissue causing the cow to produce less milk; it changes the components of the milk affecting milk quality (it has less protein, a shorter shelf life and may be more acidic); it costs the farmer more money to produce milk because infected cows are producing less of the product; and it forces infected cows to be sold off quicker because they are no longer profitable.

"On average, with each case of mastitis, a cow will lose about 1,600 pounds of milk during the lactation period. Each time a cow comes down with mastitis, it costs the farmer approximately $200 annually in lost milk production and antibiotics," said Meiring. "That's quite a bit of money." Mastitis is known to cause nearly 70 percent of economic losses in milk production.

Other topics to be presented at the conference include milk marketing; managing reproduction effectively; utilizing labor on dairy farms; managing cow behavior; and transition cow management.

For more information on the Tri-State Dairy Management Conference, contact Amanda Hargett at (614) 688-3143 or e-mail at; or Normand St.-Pierre at (614) 292-6507; or log onto The conference is sponsored by Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue universities.

Candace Pollock
Richard Meiring