Udder pain: the misery of mastitis in dairy cows | Viva!

Udder pain: the misery of mastitis in dairy cows

Mastitis is an excruciatingly painful bacterial infection of the udder, affecting almost one third of British dairy cows at any one time. There are over one million cases a year in the UK (Farm Animal Welfare Council, 2009). Routine use of antibiotics has consistently failed to control it and milk for human consumption from infected cows can quite legally contain up to 400 million pus cells per litre. Mastitis is the most common disease in dairy cows and a major reason why they are killed so young (GB Cattle Health & Welfare Group, 2012). Mastitis symptoms can be obvious, such as swollen, hard and painful udders and discoloured or clotted milk, which may be invisible to the eye. Bacteria that cause mastitis thrive in dirty, wet bedding and can be transmitted from cow to cow via milking machines. As cows have been bred to produce too much milk, this unnatural strain breaks down udder tissues, allowing bacteria to invade. Consistently unhealthy, her immune system is incapable of fighting disease as vigorously as it should.

Is there mastitis in your milk? You can bet on it. Over one million cases a year of mastitis in dairy cows means there's no escaping the facts. Almost one fifth of cows were killed due to mastitis in 2011 and the figures are rising. There's no doubt about it: dairy does damage.