How To Reduce The Causes of Mastitis

Mastitis is production-limiting, complex condition that can increase cull rates, veterinary visits and operating costs.

Management and environmental factors are important and one way to help reduce mastitis, lower somatic cell counts and get more lactations per cow, is by taking advantage of hybrid vigor with crossbreeding.

An indicator used as a standard measurement to assess the level of mastitis is the somatic cell count. This reflects the state of the herd’s udder health overall with an inflammatory cell count per mL of milk.

This is called Somatic cell count and it has an impact on milk quality, reflects sanitation practices on the farm as well as udder health. The lower the count, the better the milk quality. With a high somatic milk count, there are deductions from the milk price also.

New Technology To Measure Somatic Cell Counts

Somatic cell counts can be quickly determined with a simple, user-friendly hand-held device attached to an iPhone (check out This allows early detection of Mastitis symptoms in dairy cows, permitting symptoms of mastitis to be treated early.


Environmental Causes of Mastitis:

  • Feed and water quality and quantity;
  • Rumen environment (poor quality silage);
  • Insufficient hygiene in stalls or bedding

The Cow’s Role in Causes of Mastitis:

reduce-masitis-in-dairy-cowsBad teats for example: Hyperkeratosis is a condition where the teat opening has formed extra tissue from milking and handling stress. This creates an easier portal of entry for pathogens.

Other causes of associated difficulties that can contribute to several types of mastitis in dairy cows

  • milking since the teat canal ends up narrowing;
  • Moist teats when entering parlor;
  • Uncomfortable milking procedure that causes pain;

Poor milking machine maintenance causing teat damage or introducing infection may also be causes of mastitis in cattle.


The Role of Man in Causes of Mastitis

Insufficiently emptied udders ( should not have more than 300 to 500 ml milk left in the udder – this will ensure normal udder health and function)

Any residual milk, previous infections and cow parity may have negative these impacts on udder health;

  • The entire udder feel after milking should be soft and pliable – any hard areas may reflect abnormality;
  • It is paramount that clean gloves are being worn;
  • Pre milking cleaning with clean cloths;
  • Post milking teat dips;
  • Routine teat condition supervision – by assessment periodically;
  • Removal of mastitis cases from milking until recovered or at end of cycle;
  • Specific inspections to look for teat abnormalities to assess risk;


Fleckvieh and Lower Somatic cell counts:

Many dairy breeds focus on the udder and its conformation. Fleckvieh has proven that also other traits when given attention produce an overall more powerful animal. Therefore they have a better immune system for example which can ward off infection like mastitis better.

The act of crossbreeding in itself takes advantage of hybrid vigor and specific genetic expression: The F1 generation of Fleckvieh bred with another breed shows lower somatic cell counts because the Fleckvieh influence by their character  makes for a flat lactation curve. This will stress the udder less and helps reduce mastitis.

Lower somatic cell counts, less treatment costs, less penalties on milk prices and also a lower insemination rate right off the  hop makes this a choice for many farmers to try Fleckvieh.



The History of Fleckvieh Dual Purpose Cattle

Considering Genetic Change For Your Dairy Herd?

The most accepted theory about the history of Fleckvieh and the formation of the modern Fleckvieh animal goes as such:

A dark colored bovine animal that was related to prehistoric cattle was cross bred with other tame domesticated cattle, to form this strong and very large “germanic cattle” in Switzerland. Migration of people from other areas brought on a new mix of bloodlines to this now domesticated, tamed cattle.

The large boned “Swiss Fleckvieh” was influenced also by Southern Scandinavian blood lines. For 1400 years for sure, the Fleckvieh of the Simmental region in Switzerland was raised and bred. In the last 200 years, other genetic influences and movements over greater geographical areas led to more bloodlines. The original dark red, big boned animals with some white in the hair coat was the most useful durable agricultural animal.

Swiss Fleckvieh Come To Germany

The Swiss Fleckvieh came into Germany in the late 1700’s and was used as milk and meat producer but also as working animal (plowing the fields for example). Not only meat and milk, but also hide (leather), and farm work was in the rapporteur of the Fleckvieh animals. Many noble men throughout Europe in different regions begun to develop certain blood lines called “Schlag”. To get into the details of these is beyond the scope of this article.

Obstacles such as war and Rinderpest caused changes in the population dynamics and gene pool over the years.

Onward and upward it went around 1830, when more Feckvieh cattle were coming into Germany from the Simmental area. The main person who did imports from Switzerland on foot on an annual basis was Max Obermeier of Gmund am Tegernsee. He brought cattle from the Simmental in Switzerland to his area for 50 years.

Official beginning of “German Fleckvieh”

The genetics were spread from this importation to the various regions in Germany. This time marks the official breeding of the “German Fleckvieh”. Early dairy herd management involved crossbreeding in three main regions was started: Royal regions of Bavaria, Baden and Wuertemberg.

By the time the 1900’s rolled around, the breeding of the original Swiss Fleckvieh throughout Europe made it the most common breed of cattle. Because of their original region being the Simmental in Switzerland, the name “Simmentaler” cattle was used instead of Swiss Fleckvieh.

Simmentaler Fleckvieh Milk Production

Simmentaler Fleckvieh production levels were first assessed in the early 1900’s:

Milk production was measured and on average of 7000 liters, with high milk yielding cows all the way up to 12000 liters in a 365 day period was determined. Also milk fat ranged form 3.88% to 4.13%. In terms of meat production, it was observed that animals had huge bone mass and meat yield because they were being bred for being in the mountains.

This history of Fleckvieh has given rise to the breed goals of optimizing the meat and milk yields. The dual purpose Fleckvieh found today to assist in dairy herd management.

General characteristics favored by Simmentaler Fleckvieh farmers:

  • Great growth rates and feed conversion
  • solid bone and muscling characteristics
  • strong tendons and tough claws
  • lively temperament
  • benevolent character

This makes it so that the animals can be handled and kept in all kinds of barn systems or grazing systems.

The History of Fleckvieh in Canada and USA

As a youth, Werner Popp ( 10.10.1940 – 30.03.2007) raised Fleckvieh cattle on his grandfather’s farm in Germany. He is seen here working the fields with Fleckvieh cows in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria near Hirschau. In 1983, Werner moved his family to Canada and started farming cattle and some grains.

Recalling the benefits of Fleckvieh from his youth, Werner started a working relationship with Bayern Genetik in the year 2000, to introduce dual purpose genetics of Fleckvieh to the North American continent.

Now his two sons Max Popp of BetterDairyCow, and John Popp of BigBearGenetics, are working together with the goal of improving animal welfare and better dairy farm efficiencies with the strength of Fleckvieh Genetics.

Four Big Advantages of Fleckvieh Dairy Cows


There are several good reasons why dairy farmers in North America are learning about the advantages of Fleckvieh x Holstein crossbreeding! Worldwide, the Fleckvieh cattle breed has a large population of about 42 million animals. In some areas of the world these cattle are very common place on dairy farms, and in other areas, they are just beginning to incorporate the advantages of Fleckvieh with a crossbreeding program. For example in the Americas, there are fewer Fleckvieh Cattle in dairy farms, compared with the homeland of Europe specifically in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

1. Fleckvieh are well Adapted To Climate

Bavarian Fleckvieh are well adapted to all kinds of climate. Successful production of high quality milk was recently observed in Brasil by the author. Also in colder climates like Canada and USA, or mountain ranges of Germany, these animals do very well. An explanation that was found again through slaughter house carcass observations by the author and thermoregulatory studies by Bayern Genetik in Germany: Fleckvieh dairy cattle skin is thick like that of a strictly beef animal. Bavarian Fleckvieh have a better circulation because of this and can dissipate heat better into the ambient environment.

This is very helpful in hot climates and summer conditions of temperate regions of the world. Conversely, during cold winter days, the thick skin (up to ¼ of an inch in thickness) helps to insulate the animals. From a nutritional perspective, one can find that the dietary intake is less in cold weather since less energy is required to keep warm. This can be beneficial in terms of cost of operating.

Fleckvieh stem from the Simmentaler breed (more in the blog pertaining to “genetic change”) and were bred to be very manageable in the mountains of Austria and Southern Bavaria. They had to ambulate on mountainous terrain and therefore the breed goal is to have a withers height of 143 to 147 cm with a body weight of approximately 1500 lbs. This size works well on a mountain and it also works well in a modern milk parlor and even robotic milking machines. Their frames are such that they can support a lot of muscle mass and have feet and legs that are strong. This strength is also an advantage of Fleckvieh when they are put to work in a modern dairy farm.

2. Fleckvieh Produce High Quality Milk

Fleckvieh dairy cows produce high quality milk with fat levels on the high end of the industry standard norm in the 4.2 percent range. Also, milk protein levels are in the 3.5% to 3.8% range.

Milk volume tends to be 1 – 3 % less than the traditional Holstein herds. This has to be observed very carefully since the parity makes a difference in production volumes. A first lactation animal will produce a lot less than an older animal. And the trait of muscularity and strength with Bavarian Fleckvieh genetics adds to the lifespan so more lactations can be achieved per animal. An advantage of fleckvieh is a longer lifespan, and more lactations make Fleckvieh dairy cattle very competitive among the highest milk producing cow breeds. Overall qualities had to also be that they have a quiet disposition and are easy to work with. This is definitely the case especially with reference to the Fleckvieh breeding bulls.

The animal’s milk quality is essential in making good quality cheese. In parts of Bavaria, there is a group of producers who will use only use hay to make milk. They call the milk “Heumilch” meaning haymilk. This is testament to the fact, that Fleckvieh do very well on a grass based diets. In modern day dairy farms, this translates into better feed efficiency and in many cases cost savings due to less feed required and a lower input cost with a forage based diet. Many rations are set up with a 55% forage base. Their ability to gain weight starts in calf hood for example where a daily gain of up to 3 lbs per day is commonly observed.

Fleckvieh have Reduced Somatic Cell Counts

As a result of careful and well documented state regulated breeding programs of Bavaria’s government, the genetics are geared towards the development of high quality milk components with reduced somatic cell counts. This definitely pays off for farmers who crossbreed with Fleckvieh cattle. Teat anatomy, milk let down and milk speeds as well as a flat or persistent lactation curve make these ideally suited for dairy production. The muscling adds beef value which is why the Fleckvieh cattle are referred to as dual purpose cattle. Careful selection is applied to traits like udder height, fore and hind udder attachment as well as suspensory ligament strength and persistence.

Fleckvieh have Fewer Milk Fever Issues

Milk fever issues are also less prevalent since Fleckvieh dairy cows do not deprive the calcium stores and are less subject to major fluctuation in post-partum blood levels of Calcium, which, if they dip too low, cause milk fever.

Health Advantages of Fleckvieh

3. Fleckvieh have Easier Calving, Better Calf Survival

Easy calving is another Advantages of Fleckvieh in crossbreeding systems. In the author’s veterinary experience, one of the big reasons for easier calving is that the muscle tone and strength of the uterus of Fleckvieh dairy cows is much stronger than in other types of dairy breeds. We can help with careful mating decisions to ensure the sire chosen can help improve calving and calf survival.

4. Fleckvieh have Reduced Risk Of LDA

Documented research studies show a lower incidence of left displaced abomasum (LDA). The scientifically peer reviewed report done by Bavarian veterinarians of Obing, Germany shows, that “the relative risk of LDA in Fleckvieh cattle was markedly lower than that in Holstein Friesen cattle. The annual average of LDA over a 4 year period was 0.5% for Fleckvieh and 4.8% for Holstein Friesen. The circumstances of feeding practices and production parameters were included in the analyses. The farms in the study were intensive production milking dairy herds. Additionally conditions like subclinical and clinical ketosis are much less when using the Fleckvieh breed – provided a solid dairy nutrition program is in place. A well balanced animal that stays in a positive energy balance stays healthier.

Get Detailed Fleckvieh Mating Advice

Other advantages in using the Fleckvieh breed are the detailed genomic mating charts and mating advice available upon request. The philosophy of maintaining a good portfolio with a variety of blood lines of genetics is really important to prevent inbreeding. BetterDairyCow provides Advantages of Fleckvieh genetics of Bayern Genetik (imported from Germany), to dairy farmers throughout Canada, United States and we have contacts and partners around the world. Contact us about our 24 bloodlines and the huge genetic trees we track in order to provide the best genetics for today’s herdsman.