Mastitis & Milk Quality

Mastitis and Milk Quality

Superior milk quality is a key component for dairy success and profitability. The highest quality milk earns bonuses because it yields exceptional products like yogurt and cheese. Art Flores, a TDS California senior account manager and milk quality specialist, says, “The better the milk quality, the better the final product.”

While there are numerous factors to achieving high milk quality, milk quality experts agree that bacteria counts and

cow mastitis are the two major players. High bacteria count often originate from an equipment issue while mastitis originates in the cow.

Jeff Blesy, Commercial Lead and Director of TDS California says, “Mastitis management begins with clean, dry cows that are free of organic material and dirt. Pre-dips and post-dips are essential to preventing mastitis.” Jeff explained that cows in rotary and robotic barns are less stressed and have better oxytocin responses which result in a better let down and fewer cases of mastitis.

Many factors on a farm affect cases of mastitis. When a dairyman calls with concerns about mastitis, Flores says he begins by asking about things that may have changed, as cases of mastitis are often environmental. He asks:

  • Are procedures being done

properly? Milking procedure short-cuts can lead to mastitis.

  • Has the weather changed? An increase in wet weather can produce

moist bedding conditions and muddier cows which creates an

environment where bacteria is more likely to grow.

  • Once we’re sure the proper procedures are in place and that the animal’s environment

is comfortable, clean, and dry, we check equipment. Pulsators, hoses, liners, etc. Quarters that aren’t fully emptied and over-pushed liners can lead to an increase in mastitis.


Microorganisms that cause mastitis can be divided into two broad categories, environmental and contagious. Environmental bacteria like Escherichia coli, Streptococcus uberis, and Streptococcus dysgalactiae are found throughout the animal’s habitat, whereas contagious bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, and Corynebacterium bovis are often spread from cow to cow during the milking process.

Older barns with aging equipment are more likely to have milk quality issues including high bacteria and SCC counts, and it can often be like finding a needle in a haystack to locate the source. It could be anything from a leaking hose, to water temps, to a bacterial contagion among the herd. Cooling and filtration are often problematic when looking at high bacteria counts as well.

Ultimately, clean, functional equipment and cows that are free from mastitis which yield higher profits for dairies and better living environments for animals.

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