Mastitis is a common problem in sheep and goat flocks. It can be painful for small ruminants and costly for the producer. The following are some tips Ozarks Farm & Neighbor compiled to spot, treat and prevent mastitis.
What Is Mastitis?
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland, or udder, of sheep, goats and cows. This inflammation can be caused by stress, injury or bacteria, the strains of which can be Streptococcus sp., Staphylococcus sp., Pasteurella sp., and coliforms, such as E. coli.
Symptoms of Mastitis
The University of Missouri Extension advises that milk that is watery, thick or ropy means an active case of mastitis has progressed far enough to be recognizable as clinical mastitis.
“The udder will become red, hot to the touch, tender and swollen. The doe may refuse to allow kids to nurse. Milking may reveal clotted, foul-smelling, yellowish, watery milk. Pus may also be found in the milk,” noted David Fernandez, livestock specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Program.
The attitude of the ewe or doe can also be a good indicator of mastitis.
In severe cases, blood supply to the udder is affected and a blue discoloration may result, hence the term “blue bag.” Ewes affected with mastitis become feverish, go off feed and become depressed.
Treatment of Mastitis
“Mastitis can be treated with antibiotics,” Fernandez said.
Many of the antibiotics available for the treatment of mastitis are administered via intramammery infusions. It is helpful to collect milk samples from affected ewes to determine the main bacteria involved and the correct medication to use. Treatment should be continued for several days until the clinical signs have gone away.”
One of the best ways to prevent mastitis is to keep living, milking and birthing areas clean. This reduces the chance of an animal coming into contact with harmful bacteria, especial if the animal should sustain an injury to the udder, such as a cut from being stepped on.
“Eliminate muddy areas and overcrowding of your lactating does as much as possible,” Fernandez advised. Maintaining the health of your lambs can also aid in the prevention of mastitis. Preventing respiratory disease in lambs may help to prevent mastitis, as Pasteurella hemolytica, the bacteria that causes baby lamb pneumonia is a major cause of ewe mastitis. Sore mouth is another contributing factor, as lambs or kids with mouth lesions can infect their dams and any other ewe they may nurse. The OPP (ovine progressive pneumonia) virus may be involved in cases where both halves of the udder are affected.”
Using good management practices and acting quickly if mastitis is discovered will keep this particular sheep and goat health issue to a minimum.