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Bedding Additive Provides Mastitis Busting Solution for Devon Dairy Farm


A North Devon dairy farmer has spoken of his relief at addressing an environmental mastitis problem in his herd by applying a bedding additive. The problem affected over a quarter of
all cows and has since dropped to less than 6%. A year ago, Alan and Susannah Hoskin and their daughter Lucie, East Avercombe Farm, South Molton, had a significant number of cows contracting mastitis in the fresh period- something the family, who milk 130 all-year-round calving Holstein cows, were keen to get on top of.

After working with their vet to identify the issue as environmental rather than contagious mastitis, they set about managing it in their herd. Management of environmental mastitis involves minimising the number of bacteria that can cause mastitis at the teat end. This means having adequate comfortable housing and enough clean and dry bedding that is regularly maintained.

Passages in the cubicle housing at East Avercombe Farm are scraped out constantly using a robotic scraper, with cows bedded on EnviroBed in the cubicle housing and EnviroBed and straw in the loose housing for the close-up dry cows. Confident that they were doing all they could to keep cow housing conditions at an optimum, the family was in a quandary about what to do next.

Mr Hoskin says, “We have always been meticulous about staying on top of things, so problems don’t arise, and keeping everything clean has always been top of our list. “Every 2-3 weeks, the loose pens are cleaned thoroughly, and fresh straw is applied daily. Bedding is also applied daily to the cubicles.

However, after mentioning the problem to EnviroSystem’s Sarah Taylor, the family decided to try Cobiotex, a multi-strain bacterial bedding additive which forms protective biofilms over the bedding and cubicle surfaces.

The biofilms work by out competing the growth of pathogenic bacteria, including those linked to mastitis (E. Coli, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus) and digital dermatitis (Treponema,
Dicholeobacter) reducing the risk of these diseases spreading.

“We haven’t changed anything else, and since using Cobiotex in our dry and fresh cow housing, cases of mastitis have dropped significantly, from 25% to just six cases, in the last
six months. Our cell count has also remained consistently low over the winter in the mid-70s” he adds.

The Hoskins apply Cobiotex once a week on top of the cubicles and loose housing bedding. “The proof is in the puddings, says Mr Hoskin. “You can’t argue with it. It is an expensive product, but it goes a long way, and we can’t afford not to use it. I don’t need to work the calculations out to know using Cobiotex is cheaper than getting a case of mastitis,” he says.

Mr Hoskin says mastitis isn’t a condition that can be sustained at high numbers in a dairy herd due to the financial and welfare problems it causes. “The armoury to fight mastitis is becoming less and less. Nowadays, drugs are dearer, there are fewer available, and the withdrawal periods are long, so we must keep on top of it. For us, using Cobiotex is the only way forward. “Antibiotics are rarely administered in the 130-cow herd when drying off, with only a sealant used in the majority of cases. Care is also taken to manage nutrition during the 60-day dry period to ensure cows are getting what they need and don’t calve down with problems. “The far-offs are fed late-harvested fibrous round bale silage and the closer group gets some additional straw, maize and a specific dry cow concentrate plus magnesium chloride. We rarely see any milk fever,” he adds.

“Our cows yield 10,000l on twice-a-day milking and are grazed in the summer, so the pressure is on them. However, by getting everything else right, they can perform,” he adds. The family has identified that grazing cows outside at night is a risk factor for environmental mastitis, so this year, they will not be doing that.

Mr Hoskin explains: “In the summer, cows have free access outside at night. But because we have limited grazing around the building, the fields get heavily soiled, and the cows lie in it, which is a risk factor for environmental mastitis. This year, we will keep them in at night and just let them out to graze in the day.” EnviroSystems Managing Director Liz Russell says, ” Not only do farmers see health benefits in their cows when using Cobiotex, but the biologically-controlled bedding environment created when using the conditioner means that potentially ‘irritating’ bedding additives, such as lime, can be cut, and mastitis/digital dermatitis treatments or antibiotic use are also reduced.

“Using the product also means less bedding is needed, and farmers also report significant labour-saving, as the product only needs to be applied once a week, compared to lime, which is applied daily,” she says. Positive results can be seen in as little as three weeks when using Cobiotex and there are also no adverse health risks to humans, animals or the environment by using the product
since the bacteria in the bedding conditioner are commonly found in the farm environment.

Farm facts

  • 130 Holstein cows
  • All year-round calving
  • Yielding 10,000 l with butterfat of 4.51% and protein 3.43 (February)
  • Cell counts mid 70s and 6 cases of mastitis in the last six months.

Learn More 

  • For more information on Cobiotex, contact the team today on 01772 860085,
  • Farmers can read more about Cobiotex here
  • Visit our online shop here