Mastitis has long been one of the chief scourges of the world’s dairy industry. In Northern Ireland alone, the disease costs milk producers in the region of £2m annually.
The search to find a remedy for mastitis, the disease which has continually and persistently baffled top veterinary ‘brains’, goes on and no one would for one minute claim that they are anywhere near finding a complete solution to the problem.
One man who believes he has come up with at least a partial answer to the mastitis bugbear is Killinchy dairy farmer Mr Lyle Hayes of Hazelbank, Balloo.
Mr Hayes, who runs a 80 cow Friesian herd in conjunction with his father and brother, John, has tried measures such as antibiotics and teat-dipping over the years without much success. Now, he maintains, although the farm’s mastitis problem is still a very real one, the use of a relatively new treatment, cider vinegar, has kept the disease “at bay” for the first time in more than 30 years of dairying.
Commented Mr Hayes: “We have been dosing affected cows at the rate of four fluid ounces per milking – eight ounces per day – since last autumn, and have usually found that after a couple of weeks the mastitis trouble had cleared up.
“Mastitis has always been our biggest headache in running a dairy herd but since changing over to cider vinegar we have been able to keep the disease fairly well under control.”
Mr Hayes pointed out that one of the main advantages of cider vinegar was that it in no way tainted the milk produced. It could be sent as usual to the creamery.
Another advantage he said, was that they had experienced “very little trouble” in inducing the cows to accept the cider. “We have been feeding it direct to them at milking time and have found that although an odd cow might show some reluctance to accept it, she will usually come round in time.”
Cider vinegar, which is marketed by Whiteways Cyder Company of Devon, and distributed in Northern Ireland by John Irwin Ltd, can also be used to combat milk fever in cattle, the effects of drying-off in milk cows, arthritis and rheumatism and acetonaemia. It is also said to aid fertility in cattle.