Staph Basics




Mastitis caused by Staph Aureus is widespread among dairies in New Jersey and the United States. More than 60% of dairies have some occurrence of this difficult-to-eradicate pathogen. It is expensive because of loss of SCC premiums, clinical treatment, and cost of testing and culling. It is essential to have in place an identification/treatment/prevention  protocol to help reduce this loss. First a review of the importance and use of treatment regimens and then important ideas for helping with a Staph Aureus infected-herd.

How are decisions made now?

 Before designing mastitis treatment protocols, it’s important to find out what type of mastitis problems exist, how treatment will be made, which products are available and can be used, and how these cases will be recorded and/or evaluated. Current DHI records and mastitis cases that have been cultured(ie. RCE Milk Quality Initiative)are a start toward defining the existing problem and allowing a focused treatment and prevention initiative.



1.        Identify those cows that are infected. If at ALL possible segregate for at least the milking process. Consider tagging them.

2.        Disinfect units after a known S. Aureus cow has been milked. Water pail with weak iodine solution is NOT acceptable

3.        Dry-treat with Tomorrow/Cefa-Dri or other acceptable product shown to assist in reducing S.aureus infection.

4.        After dry treatment, dip teats in alcohol based iodine treatment.

5.        Nitrile gloves should be used for milking to prevent transmission. This IS a contagious pathogen and YOU are a vector.

6.        Make the cows environment as stress-free as possible. This reduces shedding of S.aureus.

7.        Control flies in the environment. Biting flies can spread S.aureus. This can easily and often affect heifers.

8.        Known S. Aureus cows should NOT contribute milk to calves being fed. They can become infected this way.

9.        Treatment of lactating cows should involve a product such as cephapirin or pirlomycin that is known to help with S.aureus.

10.     Do not fail to culture cows merely because they have been treated. This is a common misconception still taught.



Steps to Elimination:

All cows must be dry-treated and balanced mastitis prevention therapy should include dry-period treatment with MuSe, VitalADE, and consideration of a Staph vaccine such as Lysigen. Vaccines will not eliminate Staph, but they will reduce shedding, lactation losses, and SCC. Staph aureus is a condition that must be, in a sense, ‘lived-with’, in that it isn’t easily eradicated as conditions like strep ag or certain other diseases are. Culling certainly must be considered, but given the widespread prevalence in some herds, this is economically unfeasible. Work with these cows, help reduce their burden and they will continue to be productive members of the group. When clinical mastitis is found, be aggressive in treatment and seek to properly reduce/eliminate the clinical appearance of this pathogen.


Take note of when infections occur. Is is primarily in your newly fresh animals? Then vigilance in dry cow procedures is of importance. It isn’t all treatment options; environment is an equal partner in infection, which is always a balance between the immunity of the host and the challenge from the environment. Strengthen the former and reduce the latter.


Protect your heifers, watch for suckling and fly infestations that lead to teat lesions. Treatment of heifers has been shown to be rewarding, with usage of dry cow mastitis tubes. Be cautious of withdrawal times however.


Prevent Failure

Common reasons that a balanced and focused approach to staph mastitis or any mastitis problem can fail are that of non-compliance and the producer belief that protocols will create extra work. It is essential to spell out just what the benefits to the dairy are and what must be done to achieve that goal. It can be as simple as merely reading  the labels and directions on a box of mastitis tubes. Often a product that requires two doses will only get one when a dairyman perceives improvement after the first tube. I also caution strongly against ‘home-made’ combinations that put them at risk of both treatment failure and violative levels of residues in milk and meat.


To my mind, protocols help ease the shift in thinking from ‘hey, here’s what you do when the cow is broken’ to ‘if you know which cow’s are breaking, how often they are breaking, and where are they living when they are breaking, then we can start preventing it’. The causes of the disease start to emerge and true prevention can take place.



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Tuesday May 27, 2008 03:58:50 -0700