These cows look fine but they’re in the hospital paddock because they have mastitis. It’s an infection of the udder that can be caused by bugs out on the farm, stress or some form of “mechanical damage”, like a bump or malfunctioning milking machines.
Sadly, it’s been a big problem for dairy farmers in southern Victoria this season. Very wet conditions are the perfect breeding ground for the bugs, which include e. coli and staph. Our cows have not been immune and the co-op’s milk testing showed up increased levels of white blood cells – a sign that the cows are fighting infections.
Our first step was to look for cows with the classic symptoms: hot, firm quarters and clots in the milk. We do this routinely but we stepped it up a notch, closely examining every single cow and her milk in one night. We found a couple of cases but not enough to explain our herd’s elevated cell counts, so there was nothing for it but to carry out a spot herd test.
To do this, we divert a little milk from each cow into sealed tubes for analysis at the lab. They tell us which cows have high cell counts but can’t identify the bugs. So, yet another sample was taken from each of the high cell count cows, frozen and couriered to yet another lab. Four days later, we have the results and vet Amy has created a treatment program for each of the cows!
They’ll stay in the hospital paddock, though, until their course of treatment is complete and the milk tests free of antibiotic residue.