Udder Health Part Three
This last installment gives a brief overview of a few more potential udder ailments besides mastitis. For more photos of all these ailments, check out the #UdderHealth posts on the Kinder Goat Folks group on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/kinderfolks.
A lactolith or milk stone, sometimes called “peas” because of their size and shape, are formed from a mineral, usually calcium, and feel like a free-moving lump in the teat cistern. Often, there are one or two small stones that can be massaged and milked out. However, extreme cases like the one pictured, are possible. There’s little literature focusing on the cause of milk stones in goats at this time, so no probable cause has been determined. Teat Cysts and Weeping Teats
A teat cyst, not to be confused with a cyst on the udder caused by CL or another issue like an injury, occurs when milk is secreted somewhere other than the orifice and is most commonly seen in high-production does. If the milk cannot get through a pore in the teat wall, it will become a teat cyst, a lump on the teat. If milk does escape through the pore, the teat will “weep” milk. A doe with weeping teats is more prone to infection than a doe with teat cysts. As is the case with milk stones, teat cysts are often one or two small lumps but it is possible for a doe to experience multiple, large cysts that interfere with milking or kids nursing.
There is sparse literature on the mechanics of blown teats but this malady is typically a result of a combination of factors – the doe might be very productive but not have a lot of udder elasticity, so an abnormal amount of pressure occurs but the skin cannot stretch enough to accommodate and so the teats blow. The result is the teat cistern is always full of milk, with no separation between udder and teat. It must be pointed out not every large teat is a blown teat. Blown teats might go from a pinky-sized circumference to a pop bottle-sized circumference overnight, as happened with the doe pictured. (I cannot find any literature to confirm or refute this, but studying a diagram and description of the mammary gland, it looks as a blown teat might be the result of a damaged Furstenberg’s ring since that is what separates the teat cistern from the gland cistern – if anyone has insight into this, please do share!)
A precocious udder, sometimes called “witch’s milk” or “maiden milk,” occurs when a doe lactates though she has never been bred. Anecdotal evidence suggests these maiden milkers will be heavy producers or boast an extended lactation as adults. Precocious udders might be asymmetrical. A producer may or may not milk the animal, depending on her or his management but it should be noted that precocious udders can get mastitis the same as a regularly lactating doe and the udder should be periodically checked to maintain that it is healthy. Checking need not mean milking – just an examination of the udder feeling for hardness, heat etc. since milking will remove the keratin plug in the teat which keeps bacteria out.
Staph Infection The outside of a doe’s udder might fall victim to a staph infection caused by one or several strains of staphylococci, typically characterized by small pustules. Staph is contagious and might be caused by poor milking hygiene and wet or dirty conditions and exacerbated because when a doe has a weakened immune system. Treatments include a thorough udder wash with chlorihexidine or betadine and drying with paper towels or a one-use towel. The producer needs to evaluate his or her milking practices and try to improve hygiene in areas like udder cleaning and teat dipping and/or evaluate the potential for bacteria spreading via hands that might have been clean but were re-contaminated – for instance, by touching a cell phone then milking the doe without thoroughly cleaning your hands again or putting on sterile gloves. Bloody Milk
Occasionally, milk might be bloody. It might be so slight that it isn’t noticeable until the colored sediment settles to the bottom of the jar. Milk might have a distinct pinkish hue. There are a few possible causes including udder trauma or a quick/ heavy increase in production that has resulted in a broken capillary in the udder. Trauma might be from a milking machine not adjusted right, kids or the person milking being exceptionally rough with a doe, or the doe injuring her udder squabbling with another animal etc. As long as the udder trauma does not continue, time remedies the issue.
A few possible nutrient causes have been suggested as well. Laymen sources suggest supplementing cobalt but I could find no more information on this at this time. According to Goat Medicine, hypocalcemia has been hypothesized as another possible cause most likely in newly-kidded does and rectified by supplementing calcium – it is interesting that not all of the scholarly sources I perused agree on calcium deficiency as a potential cause. Vitamin C deficiency is another possible cause.
As mentioned in Part One, mastitis can cause bloody milk, so producers often decide to culture the milk and rule it out or not.
Diseases of the Mammary Gland
Paul J. Plummer, Cassandra Plummer
Dairy Goat Herd Health:
Udder Abnormalities and Mastitis
Lionel Dawson, Oklahoma State University
Michael Lane, University of California – Davis
Goat Medicine. 2nd Edition Mary C. Smith and David M. Sherman “Mammary Gland and Milk Production” Chapter 14