On Tuesday 4th August 2015, I (Dr. Kennedy) visited farmers around Kiamwangi area in Kiambu County. This is one of the regions in which the Farm Shop continues to serve farmers by providing them with access to high quality products through their agro (agricultural products) dealer shop in the region. In addition, Farm Shop also provides a host of extension services through their technical regional representatives.
The farmers in the area had requested that I visit their farms and consult on a wide range of challenges affecting them, with Mastitis being top on the agenda. Kiamwangi is a long distance off from our Farm Shop headquarters in Ndenderu, Kenya. I had to board three ‘Matatus’(local busses) and several motorbikes as I moved from one farmer’s home to another in the region. Most of the farmers I visited were struggling with subclinical mastitis which I diagnosed through a diagnostic test known as the California Mastitis Test (CMT). This is an easy cow-side test that can easily diagnose Mastitis in a herd with a history of decreased milk production. After diagnosis, I advised each farmer on the various methods of control and prevention as well as therapeutic measures they could employ to counter this problem.
Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland or udder characterized by changes in milk and the udder. It is a complex disease caused by any combination of; bacteria, fungi, viruses, yeast, physical and chemical injury to the udder. It is one of the most common problems I have encountered affecting small holder farmers around Kiambu County, Kenya. It leads to loss in production when milk is discarded for being unfit for consumption due to contamination, reduced milk yields, veterinary costs, and culling or death of the animal. Prolonged use of antibiotics for management ultimately becomes counterproductive due to the development of bacterial resistance, thus prevention is left as the only viable option. Apart from the various control strategies, I also taught the farmers about what causes the disease and how it is transmitted.
Prevention of Mastitis achieves good results if it is looked at on a farm-wide basis. High levels of hygiene are fundamental when it comes to prevention. While your animals are grazing in the field, the teats should be clean and not soiled with any dirt. Clean housing and good milking techniques help to ensure that the environment stops build-up of pathogens to avoid injury to teats and the udder. In summary, prevention entails:
- Maintaining hygienic environment in the milking parlor, proper drainage in the cattle pens and proper waste disposal.
- Avoiding sharp objects in the environment which could injure cow’s teats and udder.
- Avoiding dirt accumulation around the udder by clipping hairs regularly.
- Maintaining appropriate milking techniques that entail squeezing and not pulling the teats while milking.
- Disinfecting teats before and after milking by teat dipping.
- Wiping the teats using separate towels for each cow to avoid cross infection.
- Drying off the cow approximately 60 days before expected calving using dry cow therapy so as to prevent infection.
- Milking healthy animals’ first and infected ones last. New animals should be milked separately.