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Control of intramammary infections in goats: impact on somatic cell counts.

B Poutrel, R de Crmoux, M Ducelliez and D Verneau

J ANIM SCI 1997, 75:566-570.

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Control of Intramammary Infections in Goats: Impact

on Somatic Cell Counts1,2,3
B. Poutrel4, R. de Cremoux5, M. Ducelliez, and D. Verneau6
Laboratoire de Pathologie Infectieuse et Immunologie,
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique,
37380 Nouzilly, France

milk samples collected monthly after kidding. At

parturition, in the first trial, 40 of 202 (19.8%) udder
halves were spontaneously cured in the control group
vs 169 of 217 (77.9%) in the treatment group. In the
second trial, 141 out of 215 treated halves were cured.
During the first 75 d in lactation, geometric mean
SCC was significantly lower for treated goats than for
control goats. After 75 d, SCC for treated and control
goats were similar. These data suggest that other
methods are required to prevent new intramammary
infections throughout the lactation in order to keep a
low SCC in goat milk. To determine whether this
could be accomplished through teat dipping, half of the
goats in five commercial herds were dipped ( n = 294)
after morning and evening milkings through the
lactation (10 mo) with a teat dip product containing
nisin. Undipped goats ( n = 292) served as a control
group. No difference was found for SCC in milk
between the dipped and undipped groups. It was
concluded that systematic treatment of goats at
drying-off is an efficient method for the cure of
subclinical mastitis and control of SCC at the beginning of the following lactation and that effectiveness of
postmilking teat disinfection remains to be demonstrated.

Udder-half infections were recorded
throughout a lactation for 1,060 goats belonging to
eight commercial herds. Bacteriological examination
from aseptic milk samples and somatic cell counts
(SCC) determined by Fossomatic cell counting were
performed at the beginning, the middle, and the end of
lactation. Coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS)
were the prevalent microorganisms isolated. Geometric means of SCC for uninfected halves or halves
infected by CNS or major pathogens were 272 103
cells/mL, 932,000 103 cells/mL and 2,443,000 103
cells/mL, respectively. Two field trials were carried out
for evaluation of effectiveness of systematic treatment
at drying-off ( 1 syringe by half) by a combination of
penicillin, nafcillin, and dihydrostreptomycin labeled
for bovines. In the first trial, all goats ( n = 217) of two
herds were treated immediately after the last milking,
and two herds ( n = 196) were used as untreated
controls. In the second trial, 215 goats were treated at
drying-off. There were no untreated controls. Dry
period cures were determined by bacteriological examination of udder-half milk samples collected aseptically at drying-off and 2 wk after parturition. Impact
of treatment on SCC was determined from composite

Key Words: Goats, Mastitis, Milk Somatic Cell Count, Dry-Therapy, Teat Dip
J. Anim. Sci. 1997. 75:566570


at the goat symposium session titled Advances in

Physiology and Chevon Technology Research at the ASAS 87th
Annu. Mtg., Orlando, FL.
2This project was supported in part by the French Ministe
` re de
la Recherche et de la Technologie and lOffice National de lIndustrie
Laitie`re and the Centre Regional dInnovation et de Transfert de
Technologies Hyginov.
3The authors thank L. Drilleau and S. Le Guillou for milk
collection, M. Lautier for cell counting, and M. J. Paape for review of
the manuscript.
4To whom correspondence should be addressed.
5Institut de lElevage, 75595 Paris cedex 12, France.
6Laiteries H. Triballat, 18220 Rians, France.
Received January 22, 1996.
Accepted June 6, 1996.

In a recent study, it was reported that only 34.5% of

the commercial dairy goat producers in the United
States were in compliance with the current goat milk
SCC standard of 1 106 cells/mL (Droke et al., 1993).
Numerous factors such as farm, breed, age, stage of
lactation, estrus, milk production, management conditions, and intramammary infections ( IMI) have been
mentioned to affect somatic cell counts ( SCC) in goat
milk. Cell-like fragments resulting from apocrine
secretion in goat milk can lead to erroneous SCC and
only methods specific for deoxyribonucleic acid are
reliable (Dulin et al., 1982). Differential cell counts

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Table 1. Characteristics of the four goat herds (A, B, C, D)

involved in Trial 1 for treatment at drying-off
No. of goats
Proportion in first lactation, %
Milk yield, kggoat1yr1
Teat washing
Post-milking teat dipping






have shown that increased neutrophils contribute to

high SCC (Droke et al., 1993; Rota et al., 1993).
Because the total number of SCC is indicative of the
number of neutrophils and neutrophils are directly
related to glandular irritation, SCC is used as an
indicator of bovine mastitis in dairy cows. Several
authors (Smith and Roguinsky, 1977; Pettersen, 1981;
Sheldrake et al., 1981; Dulin et al., 1983; Poutrel and
Lerondelle, 1983) reported differences in milk SCC
between uninfected and infected udder halves of goats.
However, Wilson et al. (1995) found that 90% of the
difference in the goats SCC was not due to IMI.
Depending on their nature and the influence of
various factors on SCC, elimination and prevention of
IMI will be more or less efficient to control SCC. Also,
the rate and duration of IMI in dairy goat herds have
to be considered to reduce SCC in milk. Systematic
antibiotic dry cow therapy and postmilking teat
dipping are components of recommended bovine mastitis control programs. Therapy at drying-off is aimed at
both curing existing IMI and preventing new ones.
Postmilking teat disinfection is effective in reducing
the prevalence of contagious microorganisms
( Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae) . To
date, the effectiveness of these methods and impact on
SCC for use in dairy goats are not documented.
Objectives of our study were the determination of
the infectious status of goats and the evaluation of the
effectiveness of antibiotic dry therapy at drying-off
and postmilking teat dipping in relation to SCC.

Materials and Methods

Animals. Two groups of herds were used. The study
concerning the relationship between the infectious
status of halves and SCC was conducted on 1,060
lactating does in eight commercial herds. Breeds
included Alpine, Saanen, and crossbreeds. Four herds
were used in Trial 1 for evaluation of dry antibiotic
therapy at drying-off . The population of the second
group consisted of five commercial herds with breeds
similar to those in Trial 1. They were used for the
second trial to evaluate antibiotic therapy at dryingoff and also for evaluation of postmilking teat dipping.

Goats were of varying ages. There was no washing of

the teats before machine milking.

Bacteriological Examination and Milk Somatic Cell

Count Determination. Aseptic half-udder foremilk
samples were collected at the beginning, middle ( 5 or
6th mo), and end of lactation in the first group of
herds. For evaluation of dry cow therapy, aseptic
samples were collected just before the last milking and
2 wk after kidding. Composite samples were taken
monthly throughout lactation. Samples for bacteriological examination and SCC determination were
stored frozen or in ice respectively, until examined.
A portion (25 mL ) of the aseptic milk sample was
spread with a calibrated loop on esculin blood agar
plate. Microorganisms were identified after 24 and 48
h of incubation at 37C. Infectious status of the udder
half was categorized as follows: No infection, infection
by coagulase negative staphylococci ( CNS) , or infection by major pathogens ( Staphylococcus aureus,
Streptococci, Actinomyces pyogenes, coliforms) .
A Fossomatic (A/S Foss Electric, Hillerd, Denmark) cell counter was used to measure total SCC.
Dry Goat Therapy. Two different field trials were
carried out. In the first one, all goats ( n = 217) of two
herds randomly selected were treated and results were
compared to those obtained for untreated goats ( n =
196) in two control herds (Table 1). In the second
Trial, 215 goats belonging to five different herds were
treated and sampled. One tube of a combination of
procaine penicillin (300,000 IU), nafcillin (100 mg),
and dihydrostreptomycin (100 mg) marketed for use
in cows at drying-off (Nafpenzal N8R, Intervet International, The Netherlands) was injected into each
udder half, immediately after the last milking. An
udder half was considered cured if an intramammary
pathogen from one of the genera described above
initially present at drying-off was not isolated from
milk samples collected after parturition.
Postmilking Teat Dipping. The study was conducted
for 10 mo in five commercial herds. In each herd, goats
were divided into two groups balanced for age (adult
and first lactation) and application or not of dry
therapy for adults. From the first milking after
parturition, teats of goats in the experimental group

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Table 2. Somatic cell counts (SCC) relative

to infectious status of goat udder half

No. of

Major pathogens

Means of SCC 103/mL









( n = 294) were dipped postmilking with a commercial

product containing nisin (Galox Consept, CFPI,
France). Teat condition was checked regularly and
recorded at the beginning and the end of the study.
Statistical Analysis. The efficiency of the treatment
at drying-off evaluated by comparison of percentages
of halves cured in control and treated groups was
analyzed by the chi-square test. Data for SCC were
subjected to students t-test.

Results and Discussion

Although none of the goats exhibited clinical signs
of mastitis, 47% of the 5,905 udder-half milk samples
collected from 1,060 goats at different stages of
lactation were culture-positive (Table 2). Most of
these IMI were caused by CNS as previously described
(Pettersen, 1981; Sheldrake et al., 1981; Dulin et al.,
1982; Lerondelle and Poutrel, 1984). Milk samples
from halves infected with major pathogens had a
much higher SCC than samples from uninfected
halves and halves infected by CNS. Arithmetic means
were similar to those previously found with identical
method of counting (Poutrel and Lerondelle, 1983).
Although CNS are sometimes involved in clinical
mastitis (Smith and Roguinsky, 1977; Poutrel,
1984a), means cell counts were about three times
lower than for halves harboring major pathogens.
Because severity of the cellular response caused by
intramammary pathogens was originally the basis of
differentiation between major and minor pathogens
(Griffin et al., 1977), CNS should be considered as
minor pathogens for goats (Poutrel, 1984b). In goat

milk, cell content increases as lactation and age

progress (Dulin et al., 1983; De Cremoux et al., 1995;
Zeng and Escobar, 1995). However, we found geometric means of SCC below 800 103 cells/mL for
uninfected halves of goats more than 200 d in
lactation and having a parity of more than 3.
Moreover, stage and parity had no effect on SCC of
milk from udder halves infected by major pathogens
(De Cremoux et al., 1995). Therefore, elevated SCC in
udders of goats is mainly a response to infection and
elimination and prevention of IMI should contribute to
the control of SCC in milk.
Although some dairy goat producers practice systematic antibiotic therapy at drying-off and postmilking teat dipping, the effectiveness of these methods
has not yet been established.
In our study, we did not observe any local or
systemic side-effects related to treatment at drying-off.
For the first trial, compared to the control group,
significant differences ( P < .05) in percentages of
halves cured were recorded, 25% vs 100% and 19.7%
vs 77% for major pathogens and CNS, respectively
(Table 3). In the second trial, 88% and 66% of the
udder halves initially infected by CNS and major
pathogens, respectively, were successfully cured. Because of the large variation in the length of the dry
period between goats ( 2 to 12 wk), evaluation of
prevention against new IMI was not possible.
Similar results with a cure rate of 78.9% were
reported by Fox et al. (1992) after selective intramammary therapy by cepharin benzathine preparation labeled for bovines in 49 does with IMI
predominantly caused by CNS. As expected, and
shown in Table 4, SCC in milk was significantly lower
after kidding for goats treated at drying-off. However,
after 75 d in lactation, geometric means of SCC in
milk were similar for treated and control groups. This
result suggests that new IMI were likely responsible
for increases in SCC in milk of goats belonging to the
treated group. It was reported that most new subclinical infections in cows occur during the first 3 mo of
lactation (Rainard and Poutrel, 1982) and regular
teat dipping has been recommended to prevent new
intramammary infections. Effectiveness of the method
for prevention of IMI in the bovine is well documented

Table 3. Effectiveness of the systematic antibiotic treatment

at drying-off of goats by trial and by treatment group
No. of udder halves cured/No. of udder halves infected ( % )
Trial 1

Trial 2





Coagulase-negative Staphylococci




Major pathogens




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Table 4. Influence of systematic treatment at

drying-off on somatic cell counts (SCC)
from goat composite milk samples.

preventing IMI in cows when compared to a classical

.5% iodophor product (Serieys and Poutrel, 1995).
From our results it was concluded that SCC is
reliable enough to be useful for predicting IMI in goats
as previously proposed (Poutrel and Lerondelle,
1983). Antibiotic treatment of goats at drying-off is an
efficient method to control mastitis and systematic
treatment should be recommended when SCC in bulk
milk is high (>1,000 103 cells/mL), even when CNS
are involved in IMI. Using a product labeled for use in
the bovine in our study did not result in antibiotic
residues in milk from 7 d after kidding with a dry
period length of more than 60 d (Lohuis et al., 1995).
The decrease of SCC in milk after parturition of
treated goats and elimination of about 80% of
infections in udder halves confirm that infectious
status has a major influence on the SCC content.
Other measures for the prevention of new IMI
throughout the lactation are required to maintain low
SCC. Further investigations based on protocols recommended by the National Mastitis Council (Hogan et
al., 1990) are necessary to determine the effectiveness
of postmilking teat disinfection in goats. Because CNS
that colonize teat skin are the prevalent microorganisms involved in udder goat infections, premilking teat
disinfection that was developed as a potential method
for reducing bacterial populations on teat skin prior to
milking warrants further evaluation as an alternative
method for the control of mastitis to reduce SCC in

Geometric mean of SCC

103/mL by treatment group



Days before dry period

75 to 50
50 to 25




Days after kidding

+50 to +75
+75 to +100




in various reviews (Dodd et al., 1969; Philpot, 1979;

Pankey et al., 1984). We did not record any difference
between dipped and undipped teats for either arithmetic or geometric means of SCC in composite milk
samples collected throughout the lactation (Table 5).
Examination of the results indicated that this conclusion was valid for each herd under study (data not
shown). Moreover, the comparison of monthly values
of SCC (Table 6 ) suggest that the dynamics of
subclinical infections were similar for dipped and
undipped groups. A possible explanation of these
results was the lack of efficiency of the product used
and(or) of the postmilking teat dipping method, in
particular for prevention of new IMI by CNS.
However, it was reported that the teat dip containing
nisin used in this study had similar effectiveness in

Table 5. Comparison of monthly somatic cell counts (SCC) from

composite milk samples between dipped and undipped goats
SCC 103/mL

First lactation











Table 6. Somatic cell counts (SCC) from composite milk samples collected
throughout a lactation from goats when teats were either dipped or undipped
Geometric means of SCC 103/mL
Months after


First lactation









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From these results, it was concluded that somatic
count is a reliable way to detect goats with subclinical
intramammary infections caused by minor or major
pathogens. Systematic antibiotic treatment at dryingoff is an efficient method to control mastitis and
somatic cell count in milk. Further investigations are
necessary to determine the effectiveness of postmilking teat disinfections in goats.

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