Links between pre-milking hygiene and mastitis risk

This research was undertaken over two years to determine whether pre-milking hygiene treatments would be cost effective.

The project integrates new mastitis research with extension need in Australia by examining the links between improved pre-milking hygiene and reduced mastitis risk.

Practical implications for stakeholders

A reduction in mastitis increases a farm’s milk production and cow health, while reducing antibiotic use.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a marked increase in the incidence of mastitis in dairy cows caused by bacteria commonly found in the environment. Simply washing and disinfecting the cow’s teats before milking can combat this, but it costs time and money.

This research asked if a pre-milking management regimen would reduce clinical mastitis in cows, in early lactation in commercial dairy herds by 50% relative to no pre-milking udder preparation.

For the scientifically minded

The trial enlisted 2000 cows from five commercial farms, with half receiving pre-milking treatment.

The number of cows that developed clinical environmental mastitis was 10% lower amongst the group that had the pre-milking treatment. However, the reduction was not large enough to recommend that all farmers embrace the treatment.

It was notably drier during the study, with four of the five farms experiencing lower rainfall than the long-term average.

There is evidence that, where environmental mastitis risk is high, this treatment should be considered for limited time periods. These risk factors include muddy conditions, or a herd that is calving or in early lactation.

The treatment displayed other benefits including: reducing the milking time per cow, increasing the average milk flow rate, and improving teat condition.

How does the industry benefit?

Farmers now have scientific evidence which demonstrates that pre-milking washing and disinfecting of cow’s teats does not offer substantial benefits when the conditions pose a low mastitis risk. However, if it is muddy during calving or early lactation, there will be benefits from the extra work involved in a pre-milking hygiene treatment.

Project details:

Project date: August 2011 to June 2013
Key external stakeholders: Dairy farmers and vets
Partner organisations: Harris Park Group Pty Ltd, Dairy Australia (Countdown)
Project identifier: INN-09-014
GDF Contribution: $272,000