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Mycoplasma Mastitis – What’s Your Herd’s Risk?

20 November 2019

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Mycoplasma mastitis decreases milk production, but even worse, Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) cases tend to be chronic and given that there is no treatment, animal welfare must also be considered.

There are three risk factors for mycoplasma mastitis:

1) Introduction of new animals - although definitive research studies are not complete, data indicates a strong correlation from newly introduced cattle that are either clinically infected or subclinically infected with the Mycoplasma agent.

2) Herd size - the U.S. National Animal Health Monitoring Service conducted a recent survey which estimated that during any single year, 20% of 500+ cow herds in the U.S. will have a positive Mycoplasma mastitis bulk tank. “This means Mycoplasma mastitis is infecting about one-fifth to one-quarter of all large dairy herds annually,” said Dr. Larry Fox, professor at Washington State University. “That may be an underestimate because it can be difficult to diagnose.”

3) Stress - Dr. Fox’s recent research shows evidence that corticoids, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, become elevated during stressful events like parturition or bringing new cattle in that upset the social order.

For example, weather can cause a tremendous change, or anything that creates a stress event can render the animal more susceptible to the clinical disease.

“The cow may be carrying the Mycoplasma agent and look fine with no clinical disease signs. Then she undergoes a stressful event or a series of stressful events, and she’ll erupt with clinical manifestations, which also means she's now shedding a lot more of the Mycoplasma agent, having gone from a subclinical infection to a full-blown clinical infection,” explained Dr. Fox.

Both the introduction of new animals and stress are never completely avoidable, but there are ways to become more vigilant and manage these situations. For example, when buying new animals, consider gradually introducing them into the herd.

“Dairy managers should weigh how much time and effort he or she wants to spend trying to minimize stress to the animal versus the risk of introducing a problem,” said Dr. Fox. “It can’t be eliminated, but it’s a risk-reward situation and stress management is possible.”

Find out more at the Bovine Diagnostics Knowledge Center.

This article is authored by Calvin Gunter, Thermo Fisher Scientific Animal Health product management.




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