Staph Infection - Staphylococcus aureus is most commonly found on teat skin. This is likely due to liner contamination. The organism most readily colonizes the teat orifice, damaged or roughened epithelium which is commonly due to scratches, cuts, scabs, warts, pox lesions or erosions. Staphylococcus aureus is an extremely important microbe that infects the udders of cattle. Since it thrives in the tissues, when a cow is under considerable stress, the organism is more likely to manifest itself in the form of a mammary infection. Spread of the microbe is usually cow to cow through the milking process. Staph is a relatively easy organism to eradicate with basic sanitation, proper control and separating the sick cows from the healthy herd.
Basic Prevention and Control - Teat dip treatment is an effective technique to sterilize the teats prior to milking and the milkers should remember that the milking units should be disinfected between cows. Staphylococcus organisms are not host or organ specific. They exist in our everyday environment naturally and they may survive wide variations of temperature and moisture. Teat skin health problems may compromise effectiveness of teat dipping, but Staph is considered an eradicable organism, however if it is left untreated it can also lead to gangrenous mastitis which can have debilitating effects.
The mammary glands of the cow are particularly vulnerable to infection by staphylococci because of daily transfer of organisms to the teats by the milking machine teat cups and milkers' hands. There is no mystery concerning what is necessary to prevent staphylococci udder infection. It is a matter of breaking the chain of spread from cow to cow and reducing to a minimum the number of infected cows in a herd. Reduction of staphylococcal mastitis to low levels and even the complete eradication from dairy herds has been demonstrated in the past. The means for accomplishing this are 1.) bacterial identification of infected cows for the purpose of segregation and intramammary therapy, 2.) disinfection of milking machine teat cups and the skin of the udder and teats before and after every milking and 3.) treatment of infected cows during the nonlactating period with effective antibiotics. In addition to the points mentioned, it is required that the milking machine be continuously kept in perfectly functioning condition so that vacuum stability is maintained. Furthermore, the time of machine operation on each cow should not exceed what is required to remove the milk from the udder.
By adhering to this basic procedure, you can be assured that the risk of your herd developing an intense Staphylococcus infection is minimal. Good Luck to all and if you have any questions we will be more than happy to answer them, just call I & A Lab at (909) 947-6065.