by SUSAN MANN
Mastitis in cows costs Canada's dairy industry $400 million per year or about $500 to $1,000 annually per cow, indicate the preliminary results of a University of Montreal professor’s study about the issue.
But a new vaccine developed in Quebec could help change those losses — as long as it works well, says Simon Dufour, director of the Canadian Bovine Mastitis and Milk Quality Research Network and part of the university’s veterinary medicine faculty in the department of pathology and microbiology.
“We need to prevent these bugs. Once they’re in the cow, they’re very hard to deal with and they can spread from cow to cow,” says Dufour, while commenting on Bayer AG’s recent global licensing agreement to develop and commercialize a vaccine based on technology and intellectual property developed and owned by TransferTech Sherbrooke. It’s the organization responsible for commercializing discoveries from Sherbrooke University in Quebec, according to a May 30 press release from Bayer and TransferTech Sherbrooke.
The vaccine in development may also cut down on farmers’ use of antibiotics in their animals, he adds. “If you can do something to prevent infection, you won’t have to treat them (the cows) later on.”
Mastitis is the inflammation of the cow’s mammary gland and udder tissue. It occurs after bacteria, coming from a variety sources on the farm, invade the cow’s teat canal, according to the release.
The disease is present in “the vast majority of dairy herds, with 10 to 15 per cent of all clinical mastitis infections due to staphylococcus aureus,” the Bayer release says.
Once it’s developed, the vaccine will help protect dairy cattle from mastitis caused by the staphylococcus aureus bacterium, the release says.
Dufour says mastitis caused by this bacterium is highly contagious and can lead to a “very chronic and long lasting infection in dairy cows.”
Staphylococcus aureus isn’t the most common bacterium to cause mastitis, however, “it’s the most problematic in Canada and in many other countries,” he says. Other bacteria cause mastitis in cows more frequently, but in those cases the “cows are able to cure themselves on their own” or they’re able to beat the infection with antibiotic treatments.
On the other hand, cows infected with staphylococcus aureus have a lot difficulty fighting the bacteria and there’s a very low success rate with antibiotic treatments, says Dufour.
“When you treat mammary glands that are infected with staphylococcus aureus, you’re only going to cure 20 per cent of them,” he notes.
Dufour says there is one approved vaccine already for mastitis in Canada, however, it hasn’t been effective on Canadian dairy farms.
He says he is currently doing research on Canadian farmers’ economic losses related to mastitis. The preliminary results indicate the costs are due to reduced milk production or abnormal milk that can’t be put in the bulk tank, treatments and animal culling.
The study’s final numbers will to be released in January 2017, he says.
A Bayer Canada official couldn’t be reached for comment. BF