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Losses from Mastitis

Mastitis is the most important disease in dairy production systems. It affects the productivity of the cow, and the sequel is disastrous. There is increased milk loss.  Resulting from this infection, cows are unable to produce milk optimally as they would if healthy. They the become unable to feed and the feed conversion efficiency is lowered. This in turn leads to reduced milk production.

A lot of milk from infected cows is discarded. Most is abnormal milk that may have clots, bacteria and toxins, pus as well as drug residues following treatment. The milk is then aesthetically unfit for human consumption and could be harmful to health. Drug residues in milk could be cause for various allergies in humans; while antibiotic remnants could elicit antimicrobial resistance.

Farm owners incur high treatment costs in the management of mastitis in their dairy farms. These cost arise from paying veterinarians fees and in the purchase of drugs which are fairly expensive. Some treatments are particularly expensive because they require re-administration or be applied over long periods.

Mastitis and its treatment results to alteration and introduction of undesirable genetic material-from bacteria DNA. Further, bacteria produces toxins which may lead to septicemia and in turn lead to death of the animal as the infection worsens and the drugs fail. The farmer is then forced to cull some of the cows.

Reduced sale value of culls is seen as many buyers take them at throw-away prices. Sickly cows have reduced carcass weight due to the inability to feed and efficiently convert feed. Treatment for long periods of mastitis further complicates the situation. Many consumers are today unwilling to consume meat with drug residues. Commonly, such cows are sold for offal and skins.

Costs are further heightened while seeking for replacement heifers. In a bid to maintain the herd size and productivity following culling of sick animals, farmers must then dig deep into their pockets when they purchase replacement heifers.

Sick animals require increased attention and specialized care. They must be fed, treated, and monitored regularly during the day. This increases labor costs as the farmer spends more time that would be used in doing other important things, or resorts to hiring more manpower, which is expensive.

It is no doubt that mastitis leads to high economic losses, affecting the not so large income margin in dairy production. It then calls for more than just treatment. The focus of dairy cow owners must then shift to prevention of the development of mastitis in their herds. Here are few things that I recommend in order to achieve this.