To assess the prevalence and patterns of bacterial isolates, cultures were made from the dry mammary glands of dairy cows in six commercial dairy herds in the UK. Milk samples were taken from all four quarters of 480 cows at drying off and at weekly intervals from 14 days before to seven days after calving. A major mastitis pathogen was isolated from at least one quarter of 220 (45.8 per cent) of the cows and from more than one quarter of 90 (18.8 per cent) of them. During the late dry to calving period, of the 957 quarters with three culture results, a major mastitis pathogen was cultured from 236 (24.7 per cent) quarters of 186 (88.8 per cent) cows. The most commonly isolated major pathogen was Escherichia coli, followed by Streptococcus uberis and coagulase-positive staphylococci. There were significant differences between the patterns of isolates from different farms and in different calving months, suggesting that the rate of infection was partially dependent on external conditions. The isolation of E coli, S uberis or coagulase-positive staphylococci from a cow during the late dry/periparturient period was associated with an increased risk of that cow being culled in the next lactation. Bayesian general linear mixed models were used to assess the associations between the different bacterial species. The probability of isolating either E coli or S uberis was significantly greater when the other organism was cultured in a milk sample; this was also true of coagulase-positive staphylococci and S uberis. When Corynebacterium species were isolated from a milk sample, the probability of isolating coagulase-positive staphylococci or S uberis decreased significantly, and when coagulase-negative staphylococci were isolated the probability of isolating coagulase-positive staphylococci was reduced.
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