dairy mastitis management
Dairy cow udder

Mastitis Management

Improve Milk Quality and Productivity with Effective Mastitis Prevention and Treatment

Udder health is critical for cow welfare and dairy productivity. But mastitis continues to be one of the most common diseases on dairy farms, leading to losses in milk production, a reduction in milk quality and even early culling of affected cattle:

  • Clinical mastitis costs U.S. producers between $128 and $444 per cow each year1-3
  • Subclinical mastitis can cost approximately $110 per cow annually4
  • Most new infections occur in the first two weeks and the last two weeks of the dry period

Mastitis Prevention and Treatment

Mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue, is generally caused by two types of bacteria: 

  • Environmental bacteria such as Escherichia coliEnterobacter aerogenesKlebsiella pneumoniaeKlebsiella oxytoca, environmental streptococci and environmental staphylococci
  • Contagious bacteria including Streptococcus agalactiaeStaphylococcus aureus and Mycoplasma spp., which are transmitted from cow to cow


Clinical mastitis:

  • Signs will vary with severity; may be localized, or in rare cases, systemic
  • Udder heat, swelling, redness, pain
  • Milk may contain flakes, clots or blood
  • Milk production may decrease
  • Systemic signs may include fever, depression, appetite loss

 Subclinical mastitis:

  • Cows may show no clinical signs
  • Milk can appear normal
  • Affected cows will have elevated somatic cell counts


  • Based on clinical signs, abnormal milk
  • Bacterial culture +/– sensitivity
  • Somatic cell count (especially for subclinical mastitis) >200,000 cells per mL


  • Work with your veterinarian to develop a milk quality program that includes targeted mastitis treatment protocols
  • Ideally, use of bacterial culture to guide antibiotic treatment choices can help reduce overall antibiotic use, milk discard and hospital pen time
  • Antibiotic treatment is generally beneficial for Gram-positive bacteria; treatment of mild or moderate mastitis caused by E. coli is generally unnecessary
  • Lactating cow therapy: Antibiotic choice, as well as route and duration of administration, will depend on organisms involved:
    • For mild to moderate infections, use the appropriate intramammary mastitis tube
    • For severe infections, systemic antibiotics may be appropriate
  • Dry cow therapy: Treatment immediately after the last milking of lactation can help eliminate existing infections and prevent new infections during the dry period:
    • lntramammary antibiotics, using blanket cow therapy (in all quarters of all cows), are generally most effective at treating and preventing new infections
    • Selective cow therapy may be appropriate for some herds
    • A teat sealant, used alone (only in non-infected udders) or with intramammary antibiotics, can help supplement teat defenses


  • Keep cow environment clean and dry
  • Make sure milking equipment functions properly
  • Sanitize and dry teats before milking 
  • Wear gloves during milking, and disinfect hands between cows
  • Apply a germicidal teat dip after milking
  • Establish an effective dry cow therapy program
  • Vaccinate cows against coliform mastitis
  • Cull cows with chronic mastitis

Dairy Mastitis Vaccines

Important Safety Information

DRY-CLOX RESIDUE WARNINGS: For use in dry cows only. Not to be used within 30 days of calving. Any animal infused with this product must not be slaughtered for food until 30 days after the latest infusion. Precautions: Because it’s a derivative of 6-aminopenicillanic acid, DRY-CLOX has the potential for producing allergic reactions. Such reactions are rare; however, should they occur, the subject should be treated with antihistamines or pressor amines, such as epinephrine.

LOCKOUT WITHDRAWAL INFORMATION: LOCKOUT requires no milk or pre-slaughter withdrawal when used alone. If dry cow treatment is used in conjunction with LOCKOUT, follow recommended antibiotic withdrawal times per the label. 

POLYMAST RESIDUE WARNINGS: Milk that has been taken from animals during treatment and for 72 hours (6 milkings) after the latest treatment must not be used for food. Treated animals must not be slaughtered for food until 10 days after the last treatment. PRECAUTION: Because it is a derivative of 6-aminopenicillanic acid, PolyMast has the potential for producing allergic reactions.

ToDAY RESIDUE WARNINGS: Milk that has been taken from animals during treatment and for 96 hours after the last treatment must not be used for food. Treated animals must not be slaughtered for food until four days after the last treatment. Administration of more than the prescribed dose may lead to residue of antibiotic in milk longer than 96 hours.

ToMORROW RESIDUE WARNINGS: For use in dry cows only. Not to be used within 30 days of calving. Milk from treated cows must not be used for food during the first 72 hours after calving. Any animal infused with this product must not be slaughtered for food until 42 days after the latest infusion.


Short Duration Mastitis Therapy – Treat the Infection, not the Inflammation

When it comes to mastitis treatment in dairy cows, remember to treat the infection and not the inflammation. Dr. Curt Vlietstra, professional services veterinarian at Boehringer lngelheim, explains how using short-duration mastitis therapy can reduce a farm’s overall antibiotic use, while still being an effective treatment option.


Selective Dry Cow Therapy – Reducing Antibiotic Use on the Dairy

What is selective dry cow therapy? Is it a good fit for your dairy operation? Dr. Mark van der List, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer lngelheim, defines selective dry cow therapy and describes ways it can benefit both consumers and producers.

Mastitis Resources and Education

Think Your Dairy Is Ready for Selective Therapy? Take the Quiz to Find Out

Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) — where antibiotics are only used to treat cows with likely intramammary infections — is an opportunity for producers to cut down on antibiotic use. In fact, research has shown that SDCT can reduce antibiotic treatment by two-thirds.


Culturing Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Why Steve Landman of Linde Dairy wishes he would have started culturing sooner.

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Rollin E, Dhuyvetter KC, Overton MW. The cost of clinical mastitis in the first 30 days of lactation: an economic modeling tool. Prev Vet Med 2015;122(3):257–264.
Cha E, Bar D, Hertl JA, et al. The cost and management of different types of clinical mastitis in dairy cows estimated by dynamic programming. J Dairy Sci 2011;94(9):4476–4487.
Huijps K, Lam TJ, Hogeveen H. Costs of mastitis: facts and perception. J Dairy Res 2008;75(1):113–120.
Ruegg P. Premiums, production and pails of discarded milk: How much money does mastitis cost you? Resources – Milk Money. 2005. Available at: milkquality.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/212/2011/09/how-much-money-does-mastits-cost-you.pdf. Accessed July 23, 2019.


DRY-CLOX®, J-VAC®, LOCKOUT®, POLYMAST®, ToDAY® and ToMORROW® are registered trademarks of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. ©2021 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved. US-BOV-0617-2021