The Sunday News
Farming Issues with Mhlupheki Dube
THIS week we want to discuss a condition that may occasionally be experienced by cattle farmers especially those in dairy production. A condition known as hemolactia (presence of blood in milk). This results in your cow producing milk with a reddish or pinkish discolouration.
Needless to point out that this causes economic loss to dairy farmers as the milk will not be taken to the market since it will not be suitable for human consumption. Even in non-dairy farmers, it means you will not be able to consume the milk from your cattle as the discolouration is a definite indication of something not right with the animal and by extension the milk itself.
The condition is usually sporadic in occurrence but rarely several lactating animals may be affected at a time. There are several causes of blood in milk in your cows and these include haemorrhage by diapedesis, that is passage of blood cells through capillary walls into the tissues. In which blood cells are present in the alveoli of mammary glands and this occurs quite frequently just after calving. Haemorrhage due to diapedesis may also occur at any stage during the lactation.
Sometimes the number of red blood cells in milk may be so numerous as to give the milk a pinkish colour. However, slight admixture of blood after calving is considered to be physiological and does not persist longer than 14 days at the most.
Any other haemorrhage by diapedesis is considered to be pathological and results from damage to the epithelial lining of the teat cistern, owing to harsh milking by hand or machine. Trauma to udder and teat is one of the common causes of blood in milk due to haemorrhage. Severe udder oedema and a pendulous condition of udder may predispose to appearance of blood in milk.
The other possible cause of hemolactia is systemic microbial infection. Several infections including those caused by some bacteria of Leptospira species, and some viruses may cause systemic infections associated with intravascular haemolysis and capillary damage in udder leading to reddish or pinkish discolouration of milk.
Leptospirosis is one of the common causes of blood in milk in dairy animals. When leptospirosis is the cause of bloody milk, the milk from all four teats would be red in colour, thick in consistency and it contains blood clots and milk clots.
Flaccidity (softness) of udder is another characteristic clinical feature of leptospiral mastitis. Non-specific signs include fever, haemoglobinuria, decrease in appetite and milk yield. After showing these signs for a few days, the animal would develop mastitis. Leptospirosis also causes abortions in pregnant animals. Deficiency of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) can be another cause of hemolactia.
Cattle affected with diseases characterised by low platelet count may show reddish or pinkish discolouration of milk due to leakage of blood into milk. Other causes of bloody milk include Vitamin C deficiency, rough milking and acute or chronic mastitis. There are a number of treatment methods for animals showing presence of blood in milk.
The treatment methods involve introducing coagulants and vasoconstrictors to prevent blood entry into the milk glands. These methods and actual chemicals to use can be provided and aptly explained by your local veterinary officer. Antibiotics can also be used to treat the infection and these can be administered by injection or via the intramammary route.
Vaccinating your animals against leptospirosis can also be an effective control method especially if Leptospira is suspected to be the causative agent running in your herd. It is therefore important to consult your veterinary office if you are facing occurrence of hemolactia in your herd so that thorough assessments can be made and determination on the source of the problem as made. It is important to state that this is not a very common condition in most beef herds but it can bring a lot of discomfort when it comes. Milk is a sensitive product that always demand to be managed with utmost hygiene and as such to have cows that produce milk laced with blood can be discomforting health wise. This article borrows heavily from (http://uaf.edu.pk) accessed 2/3/2023.
Uyabonga umntakaMaKhumalo. Mhlupheki Dube is a livestock specialist and farmer. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback [email protected]/ cell 0772851275