Mastitis in heifers

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by evermoor, Jun 23, 2005.

  1. evermoor

    evermoor Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2004
    Often it is caused by a heifer sucking other calves. There seems to a be one every so often that can wreck havoc with her herdmates. We usually put a nose ring in the offender and remove it after they calve( of course our latest one is nursing her milking herdmates now??) Otherwise cleaniness as the heifer grows up is important an even more so as they start to spring up, which often is when they get the least care or attention. Sometimes we use a dry cow tube and milk out a quarter if it looks uneven or too much swelling at the wrong time.
  2. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

    Nov 26, 2004
    New Zealand
    Hi Willow,
    No, that is not the norm even in commercial dairy herds. However, I think Evermoor may have hit the nail on the head with her theory coupled with the way the calves/cows are often reared in the States. Now don't get me wrong but over here calves on large dairy farms may start life in a barn but within two weeks are out on pasture. This gives them room to move, room to graze, room to inspect the hay being offered etc, chase whatever birds land in the paddock and chase each other, and takes away the element of boredom that often results in the persistant suckling on each other when kept in confined areas. If this activity continues, the sphincter muscle will be constantly open allowing bacteria to enter the quarter and the problem that you describe will then arise.

    However, since this is normal practice in the States, and the problems would not seem to be rampant on other farms(?) I guess you do have to look at other mitigating factors such as too many heifers to a pen and cleanliness. A hard one for you as they are not your cows and any percieved interferance will probably not be welcomed.

    As a matter of interest, in 30 years and heavens only knows how many cows over that time, I've only ever had to put a nose guard on one cow - and that was because she sucked herself :p A first calver and dry in all four quarters every morning and every evening. Couldn't figure out what the problem was for weeks then caught her doing it. Once the nose guard was on she turned out to be a brilliant producer but never broke her of the habit. Apart from when she was dry, she lived her whole life with the guard.


  3. dosthouhavemilk

    dosthouhavemilk Well-Known Member Supporter

    Oct 28, 2004
    SE Ohio
    Definitely sounds like calves sucking one another. This is one reason calves are not raised in communal pens for the most part here in the States.

    Since they are usually raised separater until after weaning, it usually occurs once they are out on pasture. We have a heifer who is currently sucking herself and one other heifer. It does not necesarilly lead to mastitis in the first calf heifer. When feeding junk milk to calves it was an even bigger risk.

    Also, there was a strain of mastitis that swept through this area some years ago and it caused some nasty mastitis. We don't find it abnormal for heifers to come in with a subdued version of this mastitis. Bicentia lost not only a quarter her first lactation but a teat. It was strange for us to have every single heifer come in with four working quarters. Of course, Frida ended up only producing in her left front teat and not the whole quarter, and mastitis has claimed two more quarters in two other heifers. The same mastitis that came through and killed eight cows before we knew how quickly it had to be treated and with what it had to be treated.

    Last winter the school had mastitis in just about every first calf heifer that came in and they have only two heifers left over after culling and losing the others.

    Obviously, our cows get more than two strikes, but I am noticing things mroe at the school farm.
  4. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

    Dec 7, 2002
    Dysfunction Junction
    Thanks for the input! I hadn't considered the possibility of calves sucking on each other, although of course I've seen the little bulls do it (today, one was sucking on his penmate's NOSE!).

    I know the calves are raised in separate pens. I'm not really sure how they're housed down at the heifer barn ... I know they do get to go out on pasture!

    I am always looking for ways we can do things better, and believe it or not, my boss doesn't seem to mind my suggestions (I try to offer it with tact!). ;)

    I noticed when I raised Libby-Belle on her momma that she would nurse a lot, sometimes just for a few seconds. If something frightened or upset her, she would run to Dawnna and nurse. It seems to fulfill a psychological as well as a nutritional need. And even after Beefy had pretty much stopped nursing on Teeny, and she was just about dry, if they were separated for awhile, he'd always hit the milk bar when they were reunited! But he had more or less weaned himself by the age of 10 months.

    Now, I never saw these two calves try to nurse on each other, or anything else except their mommas (foster momma in Beefy's case).

    I wonder if calves who are raised artificially, and denied the opportunity to nurse appropriately, are more prone to developing these bad habits? Perhaps out of frustration?

    I have always wondered how it would work out if heifers were raised with a nurse cow (perhaps an older, low-production cow) to mother them? I have to believe they'd be healthier and happier ... especially in the winter, when the cold seems to be so hard on the babies!