Five goat herds were examined to determine the prevalence and causes of subclinical mastitis and to assess the value of some laboratory tests currently used on milk samples as aids in the diagnosis of caprine mastitis. In the 170 samples taken from the pairs of mammary glands of 85 goats, the prevalence of infection in the different herds ranged from 15 per cent to 79 per cent of halves. Just over one-third (36 per cent) of all halves were infected, the organisms isolated being coagulase-negative staphylococci (80 per cent), coagulase-positive staphylococci (16 per cent), alpha-haemolytic streptococci (2 per cent) and Pasteurella haemolytica (2 per cent). Neither anaerobic organisms nor mycoplasmas were found. Tests confirmed that the coagulase-positive staphylococci were pathogens but that the coagulase-negative staphylococci rarely caused detectable disease in the caprine udder. The large between-herd variation in the geometric mean cell counts of uninfected milk samples means that somatic cell counts, the Whiteside test and the California mastitis test, are unreliable as aids in the diagnosis of caprine mastitis.
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