July 2, 2010
Contacts: See list at end of release

Latest NNYADP Research Helps Reduce Dairy Cow Mastitis

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) has posted the latest results of research evaluating ways to reduce Klebsiella mastitis in dairy cows. “Klebsiella mastitis in Northern New York: Cow adapted vs. environmental strains,” authored by Gary J. Bennett, Ruth N. Zadoks and Ynte H. Schukken of Cornell University Quality Milk Promotion Services is online at www.nnyagdev.org.

The Cornell researchers now suspect that many of the Klebsiella infections originate in a cow’s dry (non-milking) period.

“The findings of our research with four Northern New York dairy herds indicates particularly that the dry period may be a very important time of first infection. Klebsiella bacteria may enter the mammary gland at that time and grow there causing a persistent infection that later appears as clinical mastitis after a cow enters the milk production line,” says Dr. Gary J. Bennett, a veterinarian with Cornell University Quality Milk Promotion Services, Canton, NY.

The NNYADP research project has visually and genetically identified differences among Klebsiella bacteria found in cows with clinical mastitis cases versus the dairy environment. Samples were collected at four farms in the region.

“We observe many different strains of Klebsiella bacteria in a cow’s environment, but only a relatively small number of strains cause mastitis. The Klebsiella bacteria that cause clinical mastitis have vastly different characteristics compared to bacteria cultured from the farm environment. The bacteria that are ‘successful’ in causing intramammary infections form a sub-population of all Klebsiella bacteria,” says Dr. Ynte H. Schukken, a veterinarian, professor of herd health, and director of Cornell’s Quality Milk Production Services.

The Cornell research team is currently trying to identify the genes associated with infection susceptibility with an eye toward developing a vaccine.

In earlier research funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development small grants program, Bennett, Zadoks and Schukken analyzed milk, feed, water, manure and bedding samples from NNY dairy herds to identify and type hundreds of strains of Klebsiella.

That research also showed that stand, alley and barn hygiene is critical for controlling cow exposure to Klebsiella bacteria. Particular attention must be given to alleyway hygiene, an important and often overlooked component of Klebsiella mastitis control.

Dairyman Bernhard Gohlert of Hilltop Farms, Lowville, NY, says, “The number of Klebsiella mastitis cases here dramatically dropped once we applied the best practices suggested by the early research.”

Doug Shelmidine of Sheland Farms in Belleville, NY, says, “Klebsiella has become an issue for more and more Northern New York dairy farms. This regionally-based research has provided outcomes from several herds so each dairy can weigh the factors that influence the rate of infection and make changes for our own operations. The more we can learn about reducing exposure and increasing prevention measures, the better.”

Funding of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program by the New York State Legislature made this mastitis and other research possible.

More information on the dairy industry in Northern New York is available from Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and found online at www.nnyagdev.org. #

Cornell University Quality Milk Promotion Services Researchers: Canton: Gary J. Bennett, 315-379-3930; Ithaca: Ynte H. Schukken, 607-255-8202

Farmers: Bernard Gohlert, Hilltop Farms, Lowville, Lewis County, 315-376-7674; Miner Institute Dairy Herd Manager Steve A. Couture, Chazy, Clinton County, 518-846-7121; Doug Shelmidine, Sheland Farms, Belleville, Jefferson County, 315-846-5640