January 18, 2008

Contact: Dr. Gary J. Bennett, Quality Milk Production Services, 877-645-5523, 315-379-3930

- At the QMPS laboratory i Canton, Dr. Marcos Munoz from Chile examines one of many test samples collected for the Klebsiella mastitis prevention and controls research project funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. Photo: Cornell University

KlebsiellaSamplingbw.jpg - Dr. Ruth N. Zadoks collects a test sample from a dairy barn alleyway. The sample was evaluated for Klebsiella bacteria as part of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project. Photo: Cornell University

New Klebsiella Mastitis Fact Sheet Now Online at www.nnyagdev.org:
Knowledge Offers New Tool for Preventing Infection

Klebsiella bacteria cause mastitis in dairy cows. reduce milk production, do not respond to treatment of the udder with antibiotics and come in so many different strains that North Country farmers are frustrated in their battle to reduce the infection. If not caught early, Klebsiella causes cows to be permanently removed from milk production, and the infection is often fatal to the animals. Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded Klebsiella research involving North Country dairy herds is providing new knowledge and tools for preventing the infection. The Klebsiella Mastitis Prevention and Control fact sheet is now online in the Dairy information section of the regional program�s website at www.nnyagdev.org.

New Fact Sheet Equips Farmers to Battle Infection
Doug Shelmidine of Sheland Farms in Belleville, NY, is among the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program farmer-advisors and was a leading proponent for the Klebsiella project that collected and analyzed milk and manure samples from cows and from their farm environments.

Shelmidine says, �Klebsiella has become an issue for more and more Northern New York farms. This project gives us a look at outcomes from several herds so each dairy can weigh the factors that influence the rate of infection and make changes for our own operations. There may not be a cure for Klebsiella and there are no shortcuts to cleanliness and proper milking procedures, but the more we can learn about reducing exposure and increasing prevention measures, the better.�

Identifying Critical Control Points
To identify critical control points to combat Klebsiella, the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) enlisted the aid of regional dairy farmers and Cornell University researchers and veterinarians Dr. Ruth Zadoks and Dr. Gary J. Bennett with Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS). Milk, manure, feed, water and bedding samples taken from NNY dairy herds were analyzed for Klebsiella by the QMPS laboratories in Canton and Ithaca, NY. Several DNA fingerprinting methods were used to identify and type hundreds of different strains.

Zadoks says, �If you have cows, you have Klebsiella. We have found various strains of the Klebsiella family of bacteria on farms in manure, bedding, water, feed, and milking equipment.�

Bennett says approximately 80 percent of the cows tested in more than 10 herds over the summer of 2005 were positive for some strain of Klebsiella in their manure. The average for Northern New York herds in the summer of 2007 was around 60 percent. Each cow sheds multiple strains of Klebsiella.

�On rare occasions we have seen multiple cows in the same herd with the same strain of Klebsiella in their udders. To ensure that cows do not infect each other, it is important to separate animals with mastitis from the rest of the herd. Cows excrete Klebsiella in their feces and via the manure it spreads everywhere. We think that transmission can take place via the milking machine and via milk that leaks into the cow stalls,� Zadoks says.

Research Shows Keeping Alleys Clean is Key
�Klebsiella does not just come from bedding. This research showed us how big a role the cleanliness of the alleyways and of the cows plays in this infection and provides us with new tools to prevent Klebsiella mastitis,� Zadoks says. �Alleyway hygiene is an important and often overlooked component of Klebsiella control.�

When cows walk through manure in alleyways, they contaminate their udders, teats and legs. Then they lie down with their teats on top of their manure-soiled legs creating further exposure to the Klebsiella. Two out of three cows tested in Northern New York had Klebsiella on her legs and the skin of her teats.

�We are directing farmer attention to alleyways, including the exit from the milking parlor, and holding pens, where Klebsiella is extremely common,� Zadoks says.

Developing vaccines to fight the many strains of Klebsiella is a long-term prospect. Vaccination strategies that work against the less aggressive E. coli bacteria do not work with Klebsiella.

What can farmers do while waiting for a vaccine to fight Klebsiella, which can be signaled by a rise in somatic cell count?

Diligence to Proper Milking Practices Reduces Risk
Dairyman Andrew Bilow milks 1,000 cows at the farm he co-owns with his father and cousin in Malone, NY. The farm has been named a Dairy of Distinction noted for its cleanliness for the past 10 years.

�Our somatic cell count was climbing and we could not find a reason why. After participating in this Klebsiella project, we changed our pre-dip and post-dip treatments and our counts fell to consistently-acceptable levels within six months,� Bilow says.

At the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, NY, Herdsperson Anna Pape helps oversee a milking herd of 280 cows.

�This project confirmed that we needed to remain diligent to good milking practices. We are paying particular attention to cleaning teat ends to reduce the opportunity for exposure when they open to let the milk out,� Pape says.

�And now that we understand the true lack of sensitivity to antibiotics by Klebsiella, we are better at treating infected cows with hydration and pain management, reducing their exposure to secondary infections, and feeding alfalfa meal and electrolytes to maintain their appetite,� Pape adds.

Bedding and Stall Changes Can Help
Zadoks says that testing of various types of dairy bedding shows that switching from sawdust and other bedding with high organic matter to sand bedding can decrease Klebsiella exposure. She cautions, however, that once sand bedding that tests Klebsiella-free prior to use is put into the barn and becomes contaminated with manure, it can become a source of the Klebsiella infection.

Bilow and Pape both say their farms will make adjustments in the barn to reduce exposure. Bilow Dairy will convert to using sand bedding in 2008. The Miner Institute dairy barn is not set up to use sand bedding and has larger-than-industry-standard size stalls to promote cow comfort. Pape says, �We are looking at adjusting the brisket boards to position the cows farther back in the stall so more manure will fall into the alley and not in the stall.� At any time of year, �stand, alley and barn hygiene is critical for controlling exposure to Klebsiella. Using bedding with the least amount of organic matter reduces exposure. Milking cows you know to be infected last and disinfecting equipment after milking cows with mastitis are also good practices,� Zadoks says. �Each farm must develop a plan for its unique conditions.�

Some good news for farmers in the colder climate of Northern New York is that the rate of Klebsiella-based mastitis tends to be lower in winter months.

The Klebsiella Mastitis Prevention and Control fact sheet can be downloaded from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org.

The Klebsiella Mastitis Prevention and Control fact sheet on the sources, transmission and control methods for Klebsiella-based mastitis will be sent to producers whenever the QMPS labs identify Klebsiella in one of that producer�s farm samples. Veterinarians and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators will be distributing the Klebsiella fact sheet to dairy producers in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

A committee of dairy, fruit, livestock, maple and vegetable producers guides the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program that funds research and educational outreach with practical results for NNY farmers. Dairymen Jon Greenwood of Canton and Joe Giroux of Plattsburgh co-chair the program. #