Black Mastitis

I have not had experience with this particularly vicious mastitis, thank God.  I have read about it, and have found some good informational links which I am going to include in this post. One thing to be aware of – this (and other types) mastitis can be spread from one goat to another so do wash your hands very thoroughly before milking the next (or do this one last) if you even suspect your doe has black mastitis.

Some of the links will take you to a page which has more information but includes mention of black mastitis, so you will need to do a “find” on the page for the word gangrene or black mastitis.

Goat Dairying for Income’s page on Black Mastitis describing both symptoms and treatments.  Photos of black mastitis – please be forewarned, the images are graphic.

Gangrene Mastitis Blog – This blog chronicles the experience had by Andi and her owner.  Please be advised there are graphic photos of the affected teat.

Natural Cures for Top 10 Goat Ailments from Acres U.S.A. This link contains excerpts from Pat Coleby’s book Natural Goat Care and contains several treatments for mastitis, including black mastitis. I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Pat by snail mail, she is very knowledgeable about our caprine friends.

Saanendoah Gangrene Mastitis or “Bluebag”

Quote from Saanendoah:

Gangrene mastitis is not a particular “kind” of mastitis, but most often the result of the most common mastitis’ causing bacteria, coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureus. Staph aureus can produce alpha toxin, a potent vasoconstrictor that is thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of gangrene mastitis. Other common pathogens are sometimes involved, including coagulase-negative Staphylococci, and any number of Gram-positive, Gram-negative, and coliforms bugs.

Apollonia Farms Mastitis search for keyword gangrene

From the Canadian Veterinary Journal: Peracute gangrenous mastitis and cheilitis associated with enterotoxin-secreting Staphylococcus aureus in a goat.

Goat Wisdom – Udder Care search for keyword gangrenous

Jack and Anita Mauldin’s Boer Goats – Diseases search for keyword gangrene

Goat Kingdom – Mastitis search for keyword gangrene

If you have any other pages to link to, please leave me a comment and I will add it.

Natural Ways of Treating Mastitis by Irene Ramsay

There are many forms of mastitis in goats, and not all are caused by bacteria. Probably the commonest cause is pressure and the resultant bruising. When the udder is holding more milk than it has ever done before, the outer skin becomes stretched and painful. Unless the pressure is relieved the stretched skin will become tight and inflamed and the milk inside overheated so that it comes out in lumps. This can happen to maiden milkers who aren’t milked, to does who have bagged up long before kidding and haven’t been pre-milked, and to heavily-producing does who have missed a milking.

Bruising is more common in pendulous udders but can happen as a result of a fall or a fight especially if the udder is full at the time. Some kids are rough feeders and therefore cause severe bruising by bunting the udder. Bruised tissue produces less milk so the kid bunts harder, increasing the bruises and compounding the problem.

Wounds to the udder cause inflammation due to trauma or foreign bodies (from sitting in hawthorn, gorse, or thistles, for instance) or bacteria entering the wound. Bacteria may enter the udder through scraped skin or the teat orifice – the cause of ‘summer mastitis’ is usually a combination of warmth, humidity and dirty-footed flies.

A careful goatkeeper can usually detect the start of mastitis by a slight thickening of the skin of the teat or udder. If you are well acquainted with the feel of each goat’s udder in a healthy state the change in texture will just about jump up and shout at you. Not all udders get hot at this early stage and some may just have patches of thickening no bigger than a ten cent piece.

If you treat the udder at this early stage, in most cases it will be normal again by the next milking. The treatment I have found most effective is to drench the goat with some of her own fresh milk – 20 mls will do – as soon as I detect an abnormality in the udder. This challenges the goat to produce antibodies against whatever caused the mastitis and is very effective. It is cheap, with no withdrawal period unlike drugs.

We discovered this treatment for mastitis in 1972, when two of our first kidders had post-partum mastitis (usually caused by over-stretching). One of them had rickets so we fed some of her milk back to her to help the rickets and the mastitis cleared up. The other doe was treated with conventional cow drugs and lost the use of that half of her udder. Part of that, in hindsight, was because we did not manage to strip all the gunk out properly each time she was milked; we were too kind to persevere when she was obviously in pain being milked. Later cases of mastitis, including those caused by wounds, have also responded rapidly to the milk drench.

In 1975, I told a visiting Australian breeder about this treatment, and I could see he was doubtful. In 1978 he came to visit us again and the first thing he said was that my mastitis treatment was marvellous. When he had got home from his previous trip he was greeted at the airport with the news that his best milker had cut her udder badly and although stitched up was in a bad way with mastitis in spite of the drugs she’d been given. Her milk yield had dropped dramatically. With nothing to lose, the breeder decided to try giving her back her own milk, the mastitis cleared up, and all she had to do was heal. He was thrilled that her milk yield returned to its previous level and she had no udder problems in subsequent lactations.

The only type of mastitis the milk drench will not treat successfully is black mastitis because it is a form of blood poisoning (septicaemia). For this you do need to resort to antibiotics and antitoxin. It is important to milk all the gunk (blood, serum, pus, bad milk and dead tissue) out of the udder at frequent intervals, using massage with some form of lubricant. The old remedy was to use goose grease (you will find a case history in one of the James Heriot books about a cow with black mastitis; after sulpha drugs were given the owner massaged and milked the udder for 24-hours and she recovered). Nowadays most of us would use aromatherapy oil or cooking oil for the same job. The drugs alone will not cure the udder, you have to use the natural methods as well.

When the udder is hard and/or inflamed bathing it with a soothing liquid helps to cool and draw it. As an emergency measure (when first discovered), you can use epsom salts – one tablespoon to 600 mls warm water. A kitchen sponge is a good way to apply it. The herbal remedy is one good handful each of dock leaves and elderberry leaves in 600 mls of water. Bring slowly to the boil in a stainless steel or enamel pot and simmer for five minutes. Cover and leave to stand for a minimum of four hours. Drain off the liquid into a bottle or jar for storage and keep it in the fridge. This amount will bathe the udder for three or four days, and by that time the udder should be better. The brew starts to go off by this time and should be discarded. When our elder was cut back one year, I gathered all the leaves, and raided the neighbours’ gardens for dock leaves and made up a huge brew which I froze in 250 ml lots and stored in the freezer ready for emergencies. Let’s face it, Murphy’s Law causes inflamed udders in direct proportion to the unavailability of the deciduous elder!

However long it takes and however many kicks you suffer, you must milk off all the milk, cheesy lumps, blood, gunk and little lumps of decomposing flesh which emerge from the teat orifice, if you are to have any chance of returning the udder to normal milk yield. If you don’t get rid of all the bad stuff at every milking, including lengthy massage
to release more secretion, it will do irreparable damage to the milk producing tissue, thereby giving the goat a one-way ticket to the dog-tucker freezer, as she will no longer be profitable to milk.

After the udder has recovered and the milk is back to normal, it is usual (so don’t panic) for some damaged internal tissue to slough off and come out of the orifice as irregular lumps which may be blood spotted. This is part of the healing process, just like when a doe sheds the uterine lining after kidding, so has a bloody tail for a few weeks. As a precaution, dose the doe with her milk while this is happening as the sphincter of the orifice is stretched letting hese
lumps through and may pick up bacteria because it will take a little longer to close than normal.

It is also usual for the outer skin to peel off if the udder has been inflamed. Some goats get touchy while this is happening as the new skin is tender. It is also susceptible to sunburn whatever the skin colour. You may be wise to use a soothing sunscreen on the udder until the skin is normal.

Sub-clinical mastitis shows up as white grit in the strainer when you are putting the milk to cool. The most likely cause is cobalt deficiency. To find out, give the goat a teaspoonful of Marmite or Vegemite or dried yeast. You can use ‘unimproved’ baking yeast or brewer’s yeast, 1 teaspoon daily, just as with the Marmite or Vegemite. This is only an interim test to check for cobalt deficiency, as prolonged use of yeast/yeast extract will cause phosphorus poisoning – guess how I discovered that????

You can spread it on a sandwich or make it into a drench if you like. Within 24-hours the grit in the strainer should have disappeared or lessened considerably. Dose the goat with cobalt, whichever method you prefer, so that she can make her own vitamin Bl2. It is cheaper than using any form of B12 supplement.

If this doesn’t work, the goat is probably under some kind of stress. Parasites, other mineral problems, poor milking techniques (hand or machine), or difficulty in getting on to the bail are all possibilities. Eliminate the cause and the sub-clinical mastitis will disappear.

A treatment I will have to add, is the use of Bryonia for long-standing abscesses and scar tissue. The form I used was the liquid given to nursing human mothers, and the goat was given 5 mls twice daily. The abscess had been hanging round for months, so deep inside the udder tissue it was undetectable. It ripened in 5 days and I lanced and
cleaned with peroxide. For the week the doe was with me I had ‘milked’ pus out of her twice a day and was hopeful of finally getting past this back to milk, but her owners did not persevere with the treatment and that half of the udder packed up completely. They had already had this happen to their other milker, and neither the vet nor I could detect the original cause. I am of the opinion that marginal cobalt deficiency (common in this area) was a factor in prolonging the problem, as the doe had the typical acetone smell when she arrived (not when she left, I’d
dosed her with cobalt).

– Irene Ramsay.
Updated 7 April 2000.

Click here for all the Wisdom of Irene Ramsay articles

Irene asked that I include her email address for anyone that has queries. Her email address is shown below in an image, you may also use this contact form.

I am acquainted with Irene Ramsay through the Holistic Goats list on Yahoo Groups. I read all of her posts as they are always full of wisdom and natural remedies for healing. I am honored that Irene Ramsay has agreed to allow me to publish some of her articles on my website. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Thanks, Irene! Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name. Copyright 1974-2020 Irene Ramsay. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without express permission of the author. Thank you. Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name.

Homemade Mastitis Test Recipe

Mastitis Test Solution – this recipe was found at a site that has since been taken down from the Internet.  You can see the original page at the Internet Archive.

1 gallon Distilled Water
4 teaspoons Liquid dish Soap like Ivory
1 teaspoon lye (Red Devil)
1 box Navy Rit Dye

Mix completely. To use put 1 teaspoon milk from one teat and 1 teaspoon solution into a plastic quart lid and swirl around. Slimy or curdled means Mastitis. Repeat for other teat.

Reports have been given that this product can be used without the lye. Lye used to be readily available at hardware stores, but has become increasingly difficult to find. It is available online.

Milk Testing – Taking a Clean Sample

These are the materials I take with me to the milk parlor for testing.

* 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.

Step 3: Next, pour some alcohol onto a paper towel and carefully wipe the entire right teat, including a careful, gentle scrubbing of the teat orifice.

Step 4: 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.

Step 5: 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.

Step 6: 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.

Step 7: Replace the tube into the sandwich bag.

Step 8: 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.

Step 9: Lastly, the udder salve. This is optional, but you might want to rub a bit on your doe’s teats, as alcohol is very drying.

Testing for Subclinical Mastitis – Home Tests

There are three ways to “test” for subclinical mastitis at home. [If you suspect subclinical mastitis, you may want to keep the milk from the house supply, it is safe to give to your chickens, dogs, cats, etc.]

1. Milk the doe, keeping her milk separate from the others, strain the milk, chill quickly and then allow to sit untouched in your refrigerator for several days. Make sure your refrigerator is keeping your milk cold enough. A direct quote from Organic Pastures “It is essential to remember that raw milk only tastes fresh if it is kept asleep, that means cold at about 35-38 degrees.” Organic Pastures sells cow’s milk, but this is good information for those of us using goat’s milk.

If the doe has subclinical mastitis, the milk will begin to go “off” by the 4th or 5th day. If I’m doing this test, I usually milk each side of the udder into separate containers to test both sides. If the milk is still good to 7 to 10 days, it is almost certain there is no mastitis involved. Reason being if your doe has subclinical mastitis, she has an infection in her udder, which is sloughing bacteria into the milk. An overabundance of the wrong kind of bacteria will produce an “off” or bad tasting milk. If there are no signs of mastitis in your does, but your milk goes off by 4-5 days, consider that your refrigerator is not keeping the milk cold enough.

2. Another test is to let the milk sit at room temperature for 48 hours, then examine the bottom of the jar. If there is sediment, that could mean subclinical mastitis. It is a good idea to test a healthy sample of milk as well as the suspected milk, for comparison.

3. Finally, a really good way to home test your doe’s milk is to try making buttermilk. Purchase a quart of store bought buttermilk. Place one cup of the doe’s milk in a jar, and add 2 Tablespoons of buttermilk to that. Mix well. Now, let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. After twenty four hours, you should have fresh smelling, delicious buttermilk. The texture will be thick and creamy. If instead, you have something that seems slimy, you more than likely have a problem with bacteria – meaning that your doe has subclinical mastitis. (Although it could just be your milking practices are not clean enough and you are ending up with a lot of bacteria in your milk from the milking process).

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