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Excellent udder health for high quality milk

Excellent udder health during lactation results in high quality milk

The innate immune system of a dairy animal plays an important role in susceptibility to disease, such as mastitis, and influences milk production. At the time of calving, the immune system is more fragile, and the udder may mount a response to both infectious and non-infectious stressors. 

Guarding against mastitis is of the utmost importance. Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland, and one of the most significant
diseases of dairy cattle. Diagnosis of mastitis can be made based on proof of inflammation. 

Fostering the immune system for optimal responses can help animals resist the establishment of mastitis when infections occur. By modifying the known risk factors and by optimising herd management, risk levels can be low.

In the past, clinical examination, and the presence of somatic cells on the milk were mainly used, but current examination procedures and sensor techniques can broaden this spectrum. Infectious stressors are constituted by the different pathogens present in the udder, which might provoke relatively different inflammatory responses. The control of microbial pathogens can be done by active immunization, such as vaccination or intracanalicular injections, to reach adequate protective levels in the mammary gland. 

Among non-infectious stressors, inappropriate nutrition can modulate the generation of inflammatory lipids. After calving, imbalances in dietary nutrients or metabolic adaptations, such as a negative energy balance, can increase metabolic stressors.  Different cattle breeds have different innate immune responses in the mammary gland and other crucial metabolic features. Prevention of inflammation can be achieved with the help of:

  • Adequate energy balance and diet composition, for instance, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and appropriate micronutrient supplementation. 
  • Clean, dry and well-ventilated bedding material is the most appropriate means to reduce environmental stress. 
  • Making milking a regular, gentle, rapid and appropriate quarter routine, reduces udder stress.

Monitoring systems have a key role to play in supporting accurate and timely diagnosis of mastitis.

Current sensor systems have potential to support the farmers’ operational management of udder health. Experts from the IDF have set recommendations to different mastitis situations where active mastitis management is needed. Learn more in this video.

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