Exploring Herbal Treatments for Mastitis in Dairy Cows
RALEIGH, North Carolina – For USDA-certified organic dairies, the treatment for mastitis in cows is generally no treatment at all. Researchers at North Carolina State University are studying herbal remedies in the hopes of providing organic dairy producers with some options.
Keena Mullen, a graduate research assistant in NCSU’s Department of Animal Sciences, is assessing two herbal products on four herds (about 400-500 cows total) in North Carolina to test their effectiveness in managing mastitis.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland most frequently caused by a bacterial infection, and can be costly for dairy producers if left untreated. According to the NMC, an organization devoted to reducing mastitis and enhancing milk quality, it’s been estimated that mastitis costs about $200 per cow per year. In herds without effective treatment, approximately 40 percent of cows are infected in an average of two quarters.
“We expect that these herbal treatments will be better than no treatment at all, with fewer cows needing to be culled due to mastitis. This results in more cows being productive for more lactations,” said Mullen. “Our study will include a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the economic efficacy of the alternative treatments.”
Mullen’s work, under the direction of NCSU professor and Extension specialist Steve Washburn, is being funded by a $9,990 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Graduate Student Grant.
The two herbal treatments being studied are Phyto-Mast™, a botanical multi-purpose intra-mammary preparation that is administered at the end of a lactation to clear out the udder, and Cinnatube™, a blend of essential oils thought to work as a teat sealant intended to reduce new infections between lactations.
“There are not many field studies available with regards to such herbal treatments and none in the South,” said Washburn, “so we wanted to add to that pool of research and provide practical information to dairy farmers about two potential alternatives to antibiotic treatments.”
Mullen said that the herbal treatments might also prove useful to conventional dairy producers as an alternative to antibiotic use.
“If these alternatives are proven effective at eliminating current infections and preventing future ones, there is potential for both organic and conventional dairy producers to use the alternatives,” said Mullen. “This, in turn, benefits consumers by eliminating the risk of antibiotic residues in milk/meat and by lowering the contribution of the dairy industry to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
More information on the two-year study (GS10-094), “Evaluation of Herbal Remedies as Alternatives to Antibiotic Therapy in Dairy Cattle,” can be found on the national SARE project reports database.
Graduate Student Grants, one of Southern SARE’s seven grant opportunities, are for Master’s and PhD students leading sustainable ag efforts throughout the Southern region. Calls for Proposals for the 2011 Graduate Student Grants program is now open. Application deadline is June 1, 2011.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.