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ReseaRch Update

More Northeast herds and more cows within those herds are experiencing cases of Klebsiella mastitis

By Marcos Munoz, Frank Welcome, Ynte Schukken and Ruth Zadoks

Klebsiella mastitis, an emerging disease

Klebsiella mastitis is becoming more common in Northeast dairies, as verified by analysis of New York herd data over the last 12 years. In 1992 approximately 2% of the herds surveyed by Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS) had an average of one cow with a Klebsiella infection. By 2004 nearly 25% of the surveyed herds had three or more cows infected with Klebsiella species. (Figure 1) If your herd has been affected by Klebsiella, you know the number of cows with mastitis may slowly increase overtime or mushroom in the form of a clinical outbreak within weeks. In the last scenario, affected cows usually end up being culled or dead.

What is Klebsiella mastitis?

Many, if not most, Klebsiella mastitis cases are clinical. The quarter of the affected cow is swollen and painful. Affected cows will often have a high fever (greater than 103.5º F) and will be off feed. Klebsiella mastitis can also stay silent inside the udder. In the case of subclinical infections, milk appears normal, and animals have no other clinical signs of mastitis. Although long considered an infection acquired from the cows' environment, Klebsiella may more

Figure 1. Number of Klebsiella cows and herds, 1992-2004 8

Positive cows

commonly be a contagious transmission, according to recent QMPS research. Because we're often unaware of the presence of subclinical Klebsiella infections, they can be a source of contagious spread of infection. The only way to determine subclinical Klebsiella infections is through milk cultures performed at herd surveys. On many Northeast farms Klebsiella mastitis outbreaks are more common in the summer and early fall. This seasonal increase is primarily related to factors like hot weather and increased humidity. Also, heat-stressed cows may be more susceptible to infection. But summer weather does not produce Klebsiella; it has to come from somewhere. Klebsiella has been in the environment all the time, as normal inhabitants of cows' intestines. It's shed in manure almost every day into stalls and alleyways. Frequent manure removal normally keeps up with this almost continuous shedding. Klebsiella can also be introduced into stalls via contaminated wood byproducts used as bedding. Even if sawdust or recycled manure used as bedding is "Klebsiella-free," fecal Klebsiella will thrive on the nutrients that these organic beddings provide. It can multiply into millions of organisms per gram of bedding in a matter of hours after the material is contaminated with manure.


Positive herds

Number of Cows

6 4

20% % of Herds 15% 10%


The authors are with Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS) at Cornell. Reach the central laboratory at 877-6455522. See the QMPS website at Cleanliness scores are available at these two website: pdf

2 0 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

5% 0% hygiene.pdf

Source: Ruth Zadoks and Marcos Munoz, National Mastitis Council Annual Meeting. 2007

32 Northeast DairyBusiness · PRO-DAIRY

June 2008


Steps to take if severe, sudden Klebsiella hits

Consult with your veterinarian to develop an appropriate treatment protocol for affected animals. Increase hygiene and control cow-to-cow transmission. Increase alley scraping frequency and check alleyway cleanliness. Monitor milk culture results. Conduct cleanliness scores of udders and cows. Monitor the results. Monitor the prevalence of mastitis pathogens by culturing all clinical cases. A herd survey may be necessary to identify subclinical infections. Monitor your efforts to improve cow cleanliness and milking hygiene by measuring cow cleanliness and teat-end hygiene after you've implemented management changes. Schedule herd surveys and keep an eye on Klebsiella cows that yield Klebsiella multiples times in a lactation. The use of inorganic bedding such as sand helps reduce Klebsiella count in stalls but doesn't eliminate it. Keep good records of all mastitis (and Klebsiella) cases and affected quarters to monitor changes in infection rates.

The concentration of Klebsiella bacteria in bedding increases the exposure of teat ends to the bacteria and substantially heightens the risk of infection.

Reduce Klebsiella mastitis risk

Here are two possible control or prevention solutions for Klebsiella mastitis: 1. Vaccinate cows to increase their resistance to infection. Although vaccination against E. coli mastitis has long been effective, vaccination to protect animals from the ravages of Klebsiella mastitis has been less rewarding. 2. Reduce exposure of teat ends to Klebsiella organisms by keeping Klebsiella populations in the barn as low as possible. The obvious strategy is to keep stalls, alleyways and holding areas as clean

SCORE 1 Free of dirt SCORE 2 Slightly dirty 2-10% of surface area

Figure 2. Udder cleanliness score chart. Use to assess udder cleanliness before premilking udder prep. SCORE 3 Moderately covered with dirt 10-30% of surface area SCORE 4 Covered with caked on dirt >30% of surface area

Source: Pamela Ruegg with input from Dan Schreiner and Mike Maroney, Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison

and as free of manure as possible. Also, prevent, as much as you can, manure slurry and splashes on legs, udder and teats. QMPS research has shown that Klebsiella on teat ends from dirty udders, even after premilking sanitation, contain several times more Klebsiella than clean udders. Even after sanitizing teats prior to milking, dirty teats are still more susceptible to infection with Klebsiella than teats free of visible dirt, manure and bedding. Klebsiella mastitis has always been considered an environmental infection. However, contagious transmission may be more common than previously thought. Identification and segregation of infected cows, especially during milking, may help prevent the contagious spread of new infections. xz

Keep cows cleaner

1. Identify places in cow traffic areas where manure regularly splashes onto udders, teats and legs. Then develop methods to eliminate the problem. 2. Groom stalls during each milking to remove manure and wet, soiled bedding. Add clean dry materials as necessary. Cows leaking milk in the stalls can provide the right nutrients for Klebsiella to thrive. 3. Pay attention to premilking preparation procedures. If cows with soiled udders arrive in the milking parlor, they're likely to still have Klebsiella on teat ends after premilking udder preparation. Not even the best predipping disinfectant can cope with excess organic matter on heavily soiled udders.

June 2008

PRO-DAIRY · Northeast DairyBusiness 33


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