Escherichia coli or known as E. coli is a gram-negative, rod-shaped, a common kind bacterium that lives originally in the intestines of animals (such as sheep and cattle, etc.), usually in the lower guts of warm-blooded ruminant animals and can be found in the guts of humans as well. A large group of bacteria called coliform bacteria is where E. coli part of and this group plays a helpful role in the animals’ nutrition, but the waste or feces of these animals are saturated with the high content of bacteria.
Please don’t assume that they don’t spread during milking. Just like with contagious bacteria, infected cows can contaminate the cluster and spread infection to other cows during milking. However, unlike contagious bacteria, preventing cow-to-cow spread during milking will not eliminate environmental mastitis. This is because parlour routine does not tackle spread from the environment to the cow. To control environmental mastitis, you should assess environmental hygiene as well as parlour routine. Parlour routine, alongside dry cow antibiotics, has been effective in reducing contagious mastitis but the control of environmental mastitis has been much less effective, so that environmental mastitis now accounts for more than 50% of mastitis cases in UK cattle. All farms need to include environmental milking management in their mastitis control plan.
The two most important bacteria in this group are E. coli and Strep uberis. Of the two bacteria, Strep uberis is the one that spreads more rapidly during milking, while E. coli is the one that is most commonly linked with severe toxic mastitis. However, some strains of E. coli can also be spread during milking and the majority of mastitis caused by E. coli is mild in nature.
A soiled environment! E. coli comes from the gut, so anywhere where cow faeces can come into contact with the udder, will provide a potential source of coliform mastitis. Bedding is the most important source, particularly organic bedding where the bacteria can grow and multiply. However areas around feeding or water troughs are also risk areas as slurry around these can get splashed onto the udder. Outside of the udder, Strep uberis is also found in the intestines but, compared to E. coli; it is much more commonly found elsewhere on the cow, particularly the skin. Strep uberis has a fantastic ability to develop outside of the cow, particularly in straw. Both E. coli and Strep uberis, particularly the latter, can also cause environmental mastitis in cows on pasture as they can survive for months in contaminated wet mud.
Non-organic bedding, such as sand, doesn’t support the growth of either E. coli or Strep uberis, so the use of such beds can reduce the risk of mastitis. However, these beds need to be kept clean as there is more -than enough organic material in a single faecal pat to support exuberant bacterial growth.
The peak time for infection with new environmental mastitis-causing bacteria is the dry period. Infection during the dry period is often unseen until the cow develops mastitis after calving. In order to control environmental mastitis, we have to focus on environmental management throughout the cow’s lactation cycle. Preventing environmental contamination in the dry cow is just as, if not more than, important as it is in the milking cow.
The latest research from the USA has pinpointed a lack of clean water or contaminated water troughs can be a source of e coli
E. coli can leech into your water where in fact they can increase in numbers E. coli can often be found in mud ,small ponds even in bore water.
Ensure mastitis records with good bacteriology are essential to tackling an environmental mastitis problem. Always take a milk sample from cows with mastitis before treating them for the first time, freeze it and when you have a problem you have a selection of samples available to test. Without good information, individualised targeted control programmes cannot be developed for your farm.