Testing for Subclinical Mastitis – Using a Laboratory

If your suspicions are confirmed through the simple home testing of the milk, your next step is to have your milk tested at a lab. I prefer Dairy Herd Lab, located right here in Arizona. I have used them several times, and have been very pleased.

Please note that when taking milk samples you must follow a careful procedure of cleaning the udder and teats to insure that you do not contaminate your sample with bacteria. These are the steps I follow when gathering milk for testing.

The dairy lab I mentioned above will supply you with the correct tubes for samples.

Label the tubes prior to leaving the house. On the label you want the date, your ranch name/initials (or your name) the name of the doe and LT for Left Teat or RT for Right Teat. So your label might look like this:

Label two tubes for each doe that you are planning to test. The dairy lab owner says it is a good idea to test for mycoplasma initially. One tube of milk will work fine for mycoplasma and bacteria testing.

I like to put each of the two tubes into sandwich bags to keep them clean.

Next, I gather my materials. I like to use:

* unscented baby wipes
* bottle of alcohol
* roll of paper towels
* rubber gloves
* udder/teat salve

Step 1: Get your first doe on the stand and stanchioned in. Wipe her udder and teats carefully and thoroughly with one or two baby wipes. Get your strip cup and milk several streams of milk from each teat. You are going to take a sample from one teat at a time.

Step 2: Put your glove(s) on. Next, pour some alcohol onto a paper towel and carefully wipe the entire right teat, including a careful, gentle scrubbing of the teat orifice. Allow the teat to air dry. This is a VERY important step. Alcohol works by evaporation, and a wet teat can still harbor bacteria, which will contaminate your sample. Get another paper towel with alcohol and again clean the teat and orifice carefully. Again, be sure to allow the teat to air dry. Taking these steps helps to ensure your milk sample is perfectly clean. There’s no sense in sending in contaminated samples and getting all worried about the results just because you weren’t clean enough the first time. It helps if you have a helper about now. But if you are doing this alone, what I do is retrieve the Right Teat tube for this doe. I put the lid of the tube in between my front teeth carefully, and pull the tube away from the lid. Now you are going to express milk from the right teat into that tube, being careful to not touch the tube to any surface, and also trying to squirt the milk perfectly into the tube without touching the milk to the sides of the tube. Don’t worry if you didn’t do it perfectly, it is probably good enough, but that is what you are aiming for. When you replace the lid, be very careful to not contaminate the tube or lid opening.

Replace the tube into the sandwich bag.

Remove your gloves and go back to Step 2, this time substituting the left teat for the right teat.

Your samples should be refrigerated or chilled on ice as soon as possible, especially in warmer weather. Talk with the dairy lab guy about proper shipping methods if you need to ship. We are lucky that we live close to a dairy that he services, so he will stop by and pick up our samples but usually we drop them at the dairy early the morning that he is picking up samples.

If you find that your doe has a subclinical infection, the next step, if you are planning to use antibiotics, is to test for antibiotic sensitivity. This is the best course to follow, because then you are treating the doe with the proper antibiotic to kill the specific bacteria with which she is having problems. Otherwise, you are wasting money on antibiotics that might not work, and needlessly exposing your doe to antibiotics, which are detrimental to the body because they kill off ALL the bacteria, bad or good. Additionally, you are causing bacteria in her body to build up a resistant to this specific antibiotic. The concern about treating with antibiotics is that supergerms are being produced, and we are finding more and more that our old standby antibiotics are no longer effective at treating illness. It is actually quite frightening when you learn that there are some supergerms that cannot be treated with antibiotics, and it is possible to die if you are afflicted with these supergerms.

The dairy lab technician will be able to tell you if the sample appears questionable, or contaminated. If it is, you may want to do a second test to make sure the doe really has an infection, before treating with antibiotics.

Lastly, the udder salve. You might want to rub a bit on your doe’s teats, as alcohol is very drying.

Click here to return to How to Produce Delicious Goat’s Milk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *