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Conference Helps Producers Udder-ly Control Mastitis

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Written Tuesday, October 30, 2001  

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," Meiring said. "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 at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind. The conference, sponsored by Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State universities, will provide producers information on effective dairy herd management.

Meiring will speak on Nov. 8. He'll discuss dry cow therapy, environmental management, vaccinations and nutrient supplements.

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

Mastitis is known to cause about 70 percent of the economic losses in milk production. The disease lowers milk production, since the infection destroys a cow's milk-producing tissue; affects milk quality by reducing protein and shelf life, and makes milk more acidic; increases production costs; and forces farmers to sell off infected cows 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," Meiring said. "Each time a cow comes down with mastitis, it costs the farmer approximately $200 annually in lost milk production and antibiotics. That's quite a bit of money."

For more information on the conference, contact Amanda Hargett at (614) 688-3143, or by e-mail at hargett.5@osu.edu; or Normand St.-Pierre at (614) 292-6507. Information also is available online at http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~ansci/tristate/tristate.htm.

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