THE two basic principles of mastitis control are, first, elimination of existing infections and, secondly, prevention of new infections. Up until the end of the 1960s, about 90 per cent of mastitis cases in the national herd were caused by Streptococcus agalactiae and Staphylococcus aureus infections, which were spread from cow to cow at milking time. Many of the rules applying to the milking procedure in play today were made in the disease context of that time and could be universally recommended to ameliorate the national herd problem without the need for mastitis bacteriology. Largely due to the application nationally of the 'five-point plan' for mastitis control, S agalactiae, in particular, and S aureus are now relatively much less important than bacteria originating from the environment (predominantly Streptococcus uberis and Escherichia coli). No longer can a universal mastitis control policy be applied - individual herd situations must first be understood before a control strategy can be formulated. Correct milking procedure should prevent new infections being contracted at milking time, but will not eliminate established infections. This article discusses the most important aspects of the milking procedure with regard to mastitis control. A wider discussion of dairy cow husbandry is beyond the scope of the article but, in summary, every effort should be made to ensure that cows enter the milking parlour with clean, undamaged teats.
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