Mastitis is a disease that everyone in the dairy industry recognizes but few fully understand, an expert in the control of the disease said last week at a Utah State University dairy seminar in Wellsville.

"Mastitis can be an assassinator of cows, devastator of profits and devious demiser of milk quality," said J. Woody Pankey, professor of animal science from the University of Vermont.The former president of the National Mastitis Council spoke at the USU Caine Dairy Teaching & Research Center during the daylong seminar, sponsored by the Department of Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences and USU Extension Services.

Pankey said clinical mastitis is easily recognized through clots, flakes, inflamed udders and swollen quarters. Subclinical mastitis, however, is detected only by somatic cell counts, bacteriology, or other sophisticated test procedures. It is rarely considered a significant problem by farmers.

Nevertheless, subclinical mastitis remains a major economic burden in the majority of dairy herds, Pankey said.

He said farmers can avoid spreading the mastitis organism by properly preparing udders before milking.

He said infected udders are the source of contagious pathogens and that anything that comes in contact with the cow's udder, such as bedding material, is suspect.

Attention must be given to udder hygiene between milking. Pankey said cows should be kept clean and dry. As well, care must be taken to see that cows are properly milked to minimize mastitis risks. He said milking systems should be installed and maintained according to company recommendations.

Pankey said dry-cow therapy should be administered to every quarter of every cow with a commercially available formulation.

He said dairy farmers should follow the "ABCs and Ds" of mastitis control - "Always Be Clean and Dry."