cows in field

Recent Odairy Discussion, December, 2014

Robust discussions about preventing gangrene mastitis, constipation and respiratory illnesses

By Liz Bawden, Organic Dairy Farmer, NODPA President

Added December 1, 2014. Diagnosed with gangrene mastitis, a cow had to euthanized. The farmer described the sudden onset of symptoms, and asked the group for suggestions on how to prevent this from happening again. A vet on this list responded that there are essentially two causes of gangrene mastitis - either Clostridium or Staph aureus. Clostridium is a quick killer; it is characterized by a low fever (102.7 to 102.9). It is a soil borne organism, and is one of those rare things that you see every 20 years or so. It is definately not contagious. The Staph aureus type is characterized by a high fever (105 or so). It is called “blue bag” in sheep, and is fairly treatable with antibiotics, and the udder won’t slough off as it does with the Clostridial type when treated quickly with penicillin.

“For any gangrene, if the cow is up and relatively young, there is a good prognosis if treatment is instituted right away. No dilly-dallying. .... If a cow is down with any kind of gangrene mastitis and is older and/or grunting with each exhalation of breath, they will be dead in about 2 hours.”

A producer had a 4-month old calf that was seriously constipated. His vet had installed a trocar port into the rumen to release some gas, and put in a cup of olive oil and a gallon of water. It seemed that his rumen was full, but his colon was empty. It was suggested that the calf may have eaten some of his bedding, and it plugged up the digestive tract somewhere. The oil should help to move things along, but in case it is due to a lack of peristalsis, the use of senna or nux vomica was suggested. Phyto-gest, with nux vomica, gentian, ginger and fennel, was recommended for bloat, constipation, and colic (as long as there is no fever present).

At another farm, a producer noticed that a 5-week old bull calf, still with his dam on pasture, exibited rapid, raspy breathing. Otherwise, the calf seemed perfectly healthy with no other signs of respiratory illness. The raspy sound was worse while laying down. The only change the farmer noted in the calf was his coat, which had changed from a dark black to a very faded black. Another farmer suggested checking the calf for intestinal parasites and lungworm. The lungworms may be responsible for the raspy breathing, and a heavy load of intestinal parasites may cause a copper deficiency.

Liz farms with her husband and son in Hammond, NY. You can reach Liz by phone or email: 315-324-6926,