Feeding mastitis milk to organic dairy calves: effect on health and performance during suckling and on udder health at first calving

Abb-Schwedler, Katharina; Maeschli, Ariane; Boss, Renate; Graber, Hans U; Steiner, Adrian; Klocke, Peter (2014). Feeding mastitis milk to organic dairy calves: effect on health and performance during suckling and on udder health at first calving. BMC veterinary research, 10(1), p. 267. BioMed Central 10.1186/s12917-014-0267-7

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BackgroundInfection pathways of S. aureus udder infections in heifers are still not well understood. One hypothesis is that calves become infected with S. aureus via feeding mastitis milk. Especially on small-scale farms, pasteurisers are not economic. The purpose of this randomised comparative study was to investigate the influence of feeding milk containing S. aureus genotype B (SAGTB) on the health and development of calves and udder health of the respective heifers. Additionally, a method reducing the bacterial load to obtain safer feeding milk was tested. Thirty-four calves were fed mastitis milk from cows with subclinical SAGTB mastitis. One group was fed untreated milk (UMG). For the other group, milk was thermised at 61°C for one minute (heat treated milk group¿=¿HMG). After weaning, calves were followed up until first calving. A milk sample of these heifers was taken at first milking to compare udder health of both groups.ResultsThermisation of milk led to an effective reduction of S. aureus in the feeding milk. 78% of the analysed pools were free of S. aureus, a reduction of at least one log was obtained in the other pools.Quarter milk samples revealed that two heifers had a S. aureus intramammary infection, but caused by a genotype different from genotype B.During the suckling period, the UMG had a significantly higher incidence rate of 1.09 diarrhoea cases per 100 calf days at risk compared to 0.26 cases per 100 calf days in the HMG (p¿<¿0.05).ConclusionsUnder the conditions of this study, no effects of feeding milk containing SAGTB on udder health after first calving were observed. But a power analysis indicated that the sample size in the current setup is insufficient to allow for assessment on mastitis risk after SAGTB exposition, as a minimal number of 4 calves infected (vs. 0 in the HMG) would have shown significant effects. High bacterial load, however, was associated with an increased incidence rate of diarrhoea. Thus, thermisation as a minimal preventive measure before feeding mastitis milk to calves might be beneficial for maintaining calf health.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Research Foci > Veterinary Public Health / Herd Health Management
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (DKV)
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (DKV) > Clinic for Ruminants

UniBE Contributor:

Steiner, Adrian


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)




BioMed Central




Patrik Zanolari

Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2015 15:06

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2015 11:56

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