There was a time when I followed all the correct routines in the anti-germ warfare. My cows, my staff, my milking parlour and milking machine were almost continually submerged in disinfectant! I should have thought it impossible for the most evasive germ to penetrate the armoury of my germicidal front. But cows continued to go wrong in the udder with monotonous regularity. I might as well have saved my time. I decided I would save my time and stopped all the complicated procedure of germ warfare, incidentally saving myself a considerable sum of money formerly spent on disinfectants. The germ now had a free hand. My herd was completely defenceless. Maybe the germs took pity on a defenceless enemy, for though I might have expected now to find mastitis rampant in every udder in the herd, the disease went quietly on as before, just as though the disinfectants had never been there at all!
I concluded that both the experts and I had been chasing an illusion, and decided to experiment on a different line altogether. After the experimenting with the application of the virulent discharges from an infected quarter to the udder of a healthy cow without result, I changed my attitude to the germs completely. I made notes of every little thing that touched upon each case of mastitis: heat periods; milk yield; stage of pregnancy; period of attack before or after heat period; or, if after service, length of time after service; type and quantity of ration that the cow had been on; treatment used, with result and subsequent state of the quarter in the next lactation; whether the cow had been milked on a machine unit that had recently milked an infected cow; type of discharge; length of time the cow had suckled her calf before coming into the milking herd; whether the cow had been difficult to get in calf at the last service, and all factors likely to have a bearing on the cause of the trouble.
My experimental failure to spread the disease by contact was clearly confirmed by subsequent events. This does not mean to say that the existence of bacteria in mastitis-infected udders was discounted altogether. But I did become convinced that it was wrong to approach the trouble with the object of killing the bacteria. For they have a benevolent purpose in the udder. If they are killed and the udder appears to be cured (which in any case is a rare thing where germicidal treatment is employed), as likely as not the udder goes wrong at a later date in the very same place. But where a cure is achieved without the use of germicidal measures it is permanent.
The second remarkable fact was that there is an undeniable relationship between the critical stages of a cow's sexual life and the incidence of mastitis. Practically every case that I have studied has occurred at a time which coincides with a particular phase of the sexual cycle. With empty cows at the time of the heat period, and with pregnant cows, it can usually be calculated to coincide with what would have been a heat period had the cow not been pregnant. My herd was suffering from abortion during the time I studied mastitis, and I found that the commonest time for mastitis trouble in the udder of a pregnant cow was also the time at which a cow commonly aborts; that is at the third, fifth or seventh months of pregnancy. And a cow often showed signs of aborting and went wrong in the udder at the same time. If I succeeded in curing the udder trouble the cow would recover from her threatened abortion, indicating a strain on the whole delicate and closely linked mechanism of milk production and reproduction.
Thirdly, a cow that is more difficult to get in calf is also more likely to succumb to mastitis. A frequent occurrence is for a cow which has been difficult to get in calf to go wrong in a quarter about three weeks after an effective service, indicating that the strain of fertilization has had an effect on the udder and the success of fertilization has been at the expense of the udder -- the animal's system being unequal to effective milk production and pregnancy at the same time.
Fourthly, the disease is much more common among high-yielding cows that are receiving a large ration of concentrated food. And in the moderate milking cows, if they get trouble at all, it is more often during the time when winter feeding is in progress and not so much when the animal is receiving no food except the grass. Summer mastitis is an exception to this rule. Like a summer cold in humans, it is a natural cleansing process stimulated by the beneficial effects of sun and the more natural diet of the summer months. The toxic accumulations of winter are thus eliminated, generally by heifers or animals that have not necessarily been fed on concentrates, to an extent that would cause trouble in the winter. These attacks are usually mild if caught and treated at once.
The bacteria most frequently found in cases of mastitis are various staphylococci and streptococci which are also the bacteria said to be the cause of boils in human beings. But we all know that boils are caused not by bacteria but by excessive or indiscreet diet. The fact that staphylococcus pyogenes, for instance, is found in the pus of a boil is secondary to the real cause, which is systemic. Wrong diet causes an accumulation of poisonous matter in one part of the body or another, and nature takes the first opportunity of discharging it at the weakest point. In the meantime, bacteria multiply in the process of consuming the matter which is alien to the body, and while there is more waste to discharge, the bacteria continue to multiply. A man who will fast on the appearance of a boil discovers that the discharge soon ceases. The waste is eliminated by the many processes of nature, of which consumption by bacteria is one. Mastitis, which is in the same category as the human boil, may be approached in the same way, bringing us to the following conclusions.
Mastitis is a catarrhal discharge thrown off by the cow's system at the point of greatest strain, and is the result of systemic toxaemia brought on by one of two factors, either a diet which is not equal in its content of the natural vitamins and plant hormones (which are the prerequisites of the natural cleansing processes of healthy gland secretions) to the output demands upon the cow. So the process breaks down. Toxic catarrh replaces the natural hormone secretions of the mucous membrane of the udder. Or, an excess of unnatural feeding causes the accumulation of toxic matter in various parts of the body which must be discharged in various ways, by mastitis, big knee, influenza or pneumonia, leucorrhea (whites), or abortion, all of which result in a catarrhal discharge, when the opportunity occurs, from one or other part of the body.
In either case, if the excessive or inadequate feeding is continued, the trouble becomes chronic. But if the fault is corrected, first by a period of fasting, with frequent stripping and other efforts to eliminate mucus until the discharge ceases, followed by a completely natural diet devoid of artificial foods and composed primarily of green foods, roots, hay, straw and silage, the trouble will clear itself -- and in the process the cow will become healthier in every other respect. She may not give quite so much milk in that lactation, but at least she will have many more healthy lactations, and any progeny she may bear will be one step nearer perfect health than she was herself.
Mechanical injury is of course another matter, which cannot be expected to respond to natural treatment quite so quickly as mastitis caused by systemic toxaemia. Mastitis resulting from mechanical injury is usually the aftermath of bad machine milking or a blow from another cow. This is how the milking machine is wrongly blamed for udder trouble. In my experience, a milking machine cannot cause, or spread, udder trouble when properly used.
The fallacy that the machine spreads the disease may be discounted in the properly managed herd, for, as I have previously stated, a healthy udder will not contract mastitis even when in contact with virulent bacteria. The bacteria cannot develop in the udder unless there is a catarrhal discharge to be consumed.
But trouble does often result from rough usage of the udder by a careless machine milker, and the man who blames his milking machine or bacteria for mastitis, is merely admitting that he is a bad farmer.
Treatment for Mastitis
On the first sign of abnormality in the milk or udder I stop all food and allow water only until the milk becomes normal A strong dose of garlic is given in some form and repeated morning and night for a week or more: two whole garlic plants chopped up and made into a ball with a little molasses and bran or four tablets of garlic fortified with the herb fenugreek (see Appendix for suppliers). I milk out the affected quarter as often as possible -- at least four times daily, but hourly if possible, or allow a calf to suckle it, making sure that it draws off the affected quarter.
If there is any sign of inflammation in the udder apply alternate hot and cold fomentations, with massage, three times daily, to the affected quarter, or quarters, until the inflammation goes, and during treatment finish off with a cold-water hose turned on to the udder and over the loins, for ten minutes, thoroughly soaking the region of the pelvis and udder. This stimulates a quick exchange of blood and speeds natural purification.
Work in the assumption that the mastitis is a catarrhal discharge resulting either from over-feeding or feeding on a diet which is deficient in the vitamins and plant hormones essential to milk production. Fast the animal to give the body an opportunity to eliminate this catarrhal discharge naturally and assist this elimination by milking out the discharge as often as possible.
Continue the fast for as long as three days -- after which, if the milk is still not normal, a quart of cane molasses may be given, diluted in warm water, as a drench -- divided into three doses daily for a further two days, but still without food. Continue the purifying garlic morning and night.
If the mastitis is caught soon enough, such a long fast should not be necessary. Twenty-four hours is generally long enough if the animal has no food whatsoever. But if the fast needs to be continued for more than twenty-four hours, then a daily rectal enema will be necessary to clear toxins from the intestines.
When discharge has ceased we resume feeding with green food only -- green food grown on composted land without any chemical manures. We continue for a further week entirely on green food, without any concentrated food.
The orthodox treatment is to suppress the discharge by means of penicillin or sulphonilamide, but unless the catarrh which causes the trouble is eliminated it will recur.
In addition to the feeding of natural food rich in herbs, providing the necessary minerals and plant hormones, a weekly dose of garlic -- four whole plants or six tablets -- and a daily dessertspoonful of seaweed powder, are excellent preventive measures.
The udder and reproductive organs are, more than any other organ in the body, dependent on efficient glandular secretions, particularly in a cow which inherits the capacity for high milk yields, and unless the diet is rich in the natural prerequisites of these secretions udder, or breeding trouble is inevitable.
Next: 21. Other Diseases
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