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Mastitis in Heifers

What is the impact?

Mastitis control programmes do not usually involve heifers, even though heifers represent the herd replacements and, consequently, the future of the herd. As udder development in heifers continues through lactation, the presence of intramammary infections (IMI) before calving and during early lactation may disturb this process, resulting in poor production during first lactation. Indeed, heifers with low first test-day SCC produce more milk during first lactation compared with heifers with elevated SCC in early lactation1.

Heifer mastitis infections are more commonly caused by Strep. uberis than E. coli and Staph. aureus2. and it is suspected that this infection is picked up from the environment towards the end stages of pregnancy. However, there have been links with contagious pathogens being spread from waste milk when fed to calves and the bacteria hide away until sufficient development of the udder has been achieved1.

What is the treatment?

Any pre-calving treatments for heifer mastitis are off-licence and therefore need to be discussed with your vet. There are a variety of treatment options; however, difficulty arises not just with carrying out the treatments, but also when considering the potential for antibiotic residues in the milk.


Control and prevention is currently based on avoidance of inter-sucking among young stock, fly control, optimal nutrition, and implementation of hygiene control and comfort measures, especially around calving.


1. Vliegher et al (2010) J. Dairy Sci. 95 :1025–1040
2. McDougall et al (2007) N.Z. Vet. J. 55:161–170.

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Advice on the use of Metacam, Bovikalc or other therapies should be sought from your veterinary surgeon. Metacam contains meloxicam, UK: POM-V IE: POM. Bovikalc contains calcium chloride and calcium sulphate and is not a veterinary medicine which is subject to authorisation by the Irish Medicines Board. Further information available from Boehringer Ingelheim Limited, Vetmedica Division, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 8YS, UK. Email: vetmedica.uk@boehringer-ingelheim.com | Web: www.boehringer-ingelheim.co.uk

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Date of preparation: Jul 2013. AHD 7729. Use Medicines Responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible)