Mastitis in sows can be one of the most depressing conditions seen on farm.
The combination of a frequently sick, inappetent, recently-farrowed sow, added to a litter of fading piglets is as costly as it is frustrating.
This type of mastitis is commonly caused by coliform bacteria and the infection generally comes from the environment, more specifically, faeces and urine.
This could include contamination from the floor of the farrowing crate or faecal contamination of the udder, either from the dry sow yard or from the piglets’ mouths. It’s also worth noting that, in the dairy industry, straw is considered as a potential risk factor.
Hygiene is, therefore, paramount in preventing mastitis. We often get a farrowing crate very clean between litters but then place a dirty sow in there. Therefore, lying patterns within the late dry sow accommodation must also be assessed because, especially in hot weather, sows may wallow in the dunging area.
It may also be appropriate, in summer, to put less straw in the lying area. This allows sows some contact with the underlying concrete thus allowing them to remain cooler, without the need to wallow.
Infections of this type can seem to cleat up but actually persist sub-clinically throughout the dry period, only to reappear as clinical disease after the next farrowing
We can also see affected mammary glands without the sow being sick. This disease is frequently caused by gram positive bacteria, for example staphylococci or streptococci, though occasionally these can progress into the more aggressive syndrome as seen with coliform mastitis.
Infections of this type can seem to clear up but actually persist sub-clinically throughout the dry period, only to reappear as clinical disease after the next farrowing. Both staphs and streps can multiply to high levels within straw and, therefore, very regular mucking out of dry sow pens can help reduce the levels of udder contamination.
As infections are generally bacterial in nature, treatment revolves around antibiotic therapy. However, the other key drug group to use in cases of mastitis is anti-inflammatory preparations. Benefits include improved recovery time and reduced inflammation and damage within the mammary gland. This helps the gland return to better milk production after disease.
Nutrition is also important. High levels of feed immediately before farrowing will lead to excessive engorgement of the udder and oedema. This is a risk factor for mastitis and is commonly controlled by reducing feed to very low levels for the few days pre-farrowing. If this is not successful then specific transition rations can be used.
This months Veterinary Viewpoint was supplied by Tom Iveson, of the Garth Pic Practice