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I've discussed the care of the milking doe before, but have received quite a few questions regarding the treatment and cure of mastitis. Therefore, this month, we'll talk about the prevention (preferably) and treatment of the doe for most types of mastitis.

The importance of keeping a healthy, productive milking doe cannot be overemphasized. One of the most common (and easily managed) problems the farm manager is likely to see is mastitis. The best way to handle mastitis is to prevent it in the first place. Towards this end, cleanliness is not only next to Godliness, but is also next to "healthfulness." Clean, dry living space is very important. And as I've said before, a barn floor lined with agricultural lime is most helpful. But even the best preventive care will not eliminate every instance of mastitis. Mastitis is costly for three major reasons; 1) milk production drops, 2) the remaining milk is unwholesome, and 3) the doe, herself, can be damaged and the udder destroyed. Clearly, it is important to be able to recognize and treat this costly ailment.

The first line of defence is the observant herdsman. Of course, clots of blood in the milk spell TROUBLE. Our goal is to catch the problem before it gets that bad. Does the milk filter more slowly than usual? Does the udder look even slightly uneven? Does the doe milk just a little less from one udder half? The next step is to trot out the California Mastitis Test (CMT) kit. Although this test is more sensitive for cows than for goats, it is still invaluable. These kits are sold at dairy supply stores and CO-OPs. They can also be purchased by mail order from Jeffers, Caprine Supply, and Hoeggers, among others. The test is easy to perform -- you mix a suuirt of suspect milk with a squirt of test solution. If it gels (like an egg) you have TROUBLE. But our goal is to spot a problem earlier. So maybe there is a hint of gelling. Now we must evaluate the results. A slight positive on both halves may mean the doe is in heat, or she is toward the end of her lactation, or she just got bopped by another animal. She could also have a whole-body infection of some sort. On the other hand, the slight positive might mean the beginnings of mastitis. The observations of the herdsman are most important. Maybe the milk from one udder half tests just a tad differently from the other. ACT NOW!! The best way to handle this is to take a sample of the milk to a laboratory which does bacteriological testing. They will run a culture and sensitivity test on the milk sample. This tells you definitely if you have a pathogen in the milk and also the specific medicines that will kill said pathogen. I want to point out at this point, that we like to deal directly with the lab, as opposed to going through a middleman such as the vet or a local vet school. Now, since this test takes a minimum of one day to perform, we prefer to give the doe an immediate udder infusion (take the milk sample FIRST) with something that has worked well for us in the past, such as Cefalak or Today. Follow the instructions for the infusions precisely. If necessary, get another herdsman or your veterinarian to show you the proper technique for administering the infusions. CLEANLINESS AT THIS POINT IS VITAL. Note that more medicine is not necessarily better, and you do not want medicine residues to linger in the milk any longer than necessary. Too much medication makes a BIG difference in withdrawl times. After the first day of treatment, the doe should be milked at least three times a day (more is better). Research has indicated that half of all mastitis cases can be successfully treated with frequent milkings only. By this time - 1 to 2 days - I get back the results of my lab test. If I have not used the correct medicine (most of the time I have), I can then treat the doe with the specific medicine indicated by the sensitivity test. All of this should not cost an arm or a leg. The infusions cost about $10 (for 4), and the lab test runs around $25. Other medicines may be more costly if your doe has found some bizarre pathogen. However, all of this is cheap if you catch the mastitis early and prevent permanent disfigurement of the doe. My preference is to hit mastitis early and to hit it hard. And keep those living quarters clean. It is cheaper and easier to prevent than to treat. Assuming we're successful, we should not see a recurrance for the season. If a doe develops mastitis during a lactation, this is noted on her health record, and at the end of the season, her milk is cultured again (no need for the sensitivity test unless they find growth on the culture). If she tests negative, she is treated with something like Cefadry ot Tomorrow and then dried off. This is to make certain that nothing hides in the udder over the dry period waiting to flare up when the doe kids the next season..

The previous discussion covers the most common types of mastitis. There is another type that I have only seen once - gangrenous mastitis. I am not an expert, but can pass along my observations. If a doe has an udder that is cool or cold to the touch, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY!!!!!! Chances are, the doe will have pretty much stopped milking and her milk won't filter at all. You have a life and death situation on your hands. This can come on VERY quickly. The doe can test clear on the CMT test one night, and be at death's door the next day. By all means get your doe immediate medical attention.

In summary, keep those quarters CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN. Healthy animals are cheaper and much more pleasant with whom to work. Watch your does carefully. Check the milk frequently - once a week at least - even if you don't think you have a problem. Catch a problem early. Then attack said problem vigorously. Check to make certain you've used the right artillary - use the services of a lab. This way you'll keep your doe's udder looking good, and she'll produce a lot of wholesome milk for you and your family.


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Welcome PageDescription of Dairy HerdWhat's New at the Site?Crafts and Nifty StuffAlchemy's MenagerieTip of the MonthPrevious Tips of the MonthOther Resources of Interest