February 17, 2007

Contact: Jon Greenwood, Canton, 315-386-3231
Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh, 518-563-7523

Identifying Sources of Mastitis in Dairy Herds is Goal of
Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Project

Reducing mastitis by identifying the causes of the infection in dairy cows is the goal of a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project. Researchers working on regional farms are specifically targeting the sources of Klebsiella mastitis, one strain of the infection. The NNYADP project team will pinpoint sources of the Klebsiella bacteria and develop critical control point measures for reducing and preventing this type of mastitis in dairy herds.

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program co-chair Joe Giroux, a Plattsburgh area dairy farmer, says, “Anything we can do to reduce the incidence of mastitis is a good thing for our cows and a good thing for our businesses because healthy cows stay in the milk production line.”

St. Lawrence County dairy producer and Northern New York Agricultural Development Program co-chair Jon Greenwood says, “This project looks at all the environmental factors that may possibly contribute to Klebsiella mastitis so we can target the sources with the most effective control methods and increase our production efficiency.”

Infected cows are removed from the milking line and sometimes never return to production. Rates of Klebsiella mastitis infections differ from herd to herd and by season, tending to be lower in winter and higher in summer. A number of environmental sources, including manure, feed, and water, can be the sources of the bacteria that cause the Klebsiella mastitis infection.

Dairyman Jon Rulfs of Peru, NY, says, “The dairy industry has not had a lot of success in treating Klebsiella mastitis. It is often costly to treat and too often we lose the cow anyway, so if this project can identify the causes of Klebsiella mastitis in a way that will help us lower our risk and prevent outbreaks, we will save not only the current value of our cows but their future production value as well.”

Veterinarian Dr. John Ferry of Adams, NY, says, “Recently we have seen more chronic infections of Klebsiella mastitis. One sick cow can cost the farmer $200 to $300 per cow in treatment expenses, discarded milk, and the loss of production in cows that recover. A certain percentage of cows die from the infection.”

Doug Shelmidine of Sheland Farms in Belleville, NY, says, “Cows with Klebsiella can be costly to get back into production and often never return to profitable production. This Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project will help us learn how to prevent Klebsiella infections, thereby reducing our treatment costs and keeping healthy cows in production.”

Beginning in January 2007, a research team led by Dr. Ruth N. Zadoks, a veterinarian with Cornell University’s Quality Milk Production Services, began collecting and analyzing milk and fecal manure samples from about 100 cows per participating herd. The Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS) laboratory in Canton, NY, is analyzing milk, manure, feed, water and bedding samples for the presence of Klebsiella, Streptoccal, Staphyloccal and E. coli bacteria. A DNA fingerprinting-type method is being used to identify and type the different strains of Klebsiella.

A fact sheet on the sources, transmission and control methods for Klebsiella mastitis will be available when the project is completed. Thereafter, whenever Klebsiella is found in a milk sample submitted to the QMPS lab, the fact sheet will be sent to the producer with the test results. Veterinarians and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators will distribute the information to dairy producers throughout Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and via the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org.

The farmer-led Northern New York Agricultural Development Program funds research and educational outreach for New York’s northernmost counties. More information is available online at www.nnyagdev.org or by contacting Jon Greenwood, Canton, 315-386-3231, or Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh, 518-563-7523; or R. David Smith, Cornell University, 607-255-7286. # # #