Archive: Mastitis Control Plan

Published 6 July 09

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DairyCo has launched a new evidence based, farm specific Mastitis Control Plan this summer. The Plan is the result of years of work and investigation into the depth and range of the mastitis challenges facing British dairy producers and will provide individual, situation specific solutions to help farmers tackle them head on.

"We are challenging farmers to look at their mastitis problems and solutions in a completely new way," says Kate Cross, DairyCo knowledge transfer product manager. "It's going to require hard work at times but the possible results are really worth the effort, we've seen an average 22% drop in mastitis cases among farms taking part in the pilot."

Why we need a new Mastitis Control Plan

The Five Point Plan and other mastitis control strategies have led to a reduction in both incidences and prevalence of clinical and sub-clinical mastitis in the UK since the late 1960s. But recent years have seen bulk milk somatic cell counts remaining at or around 200,000 cells/ml and there is strong evidence that clinical mastitis has been rising. The rate is currently estimated at between 50 and 70 cases per 100 cows per year.  

The past two decades have also seen a change in the aetiology of bovine mastitis, with a dramatic shift away from the classic contagious mastitis pathogens towards those of primary environmental aetiology. "The average cost of a clinical case of mastitis is £200 to £300," says Ms Cross. "That means mastitis costs the average 100 cow herd £12,000 a year for clinical cases alone. There will also be additional losses from sub-clinical effects such as SCC penalties, yield loss and secondary health effects. Mastitis continues to cost the industry millions of pounds each year and creates real animal welfare issues.

"This recent rise in incidence rates, coupled with an apparent change in behaviour of some pathogens (such as Streptococcus uberis) means that controlling  bovine mastitis has become an increasing challenge for both the dairy farmer and veterinary practitioner," she explains. "There was no national strategy and evidence based plan for mastitis control and as a result, DairyCo developed the Mastitis Control Plan in conjunction with the University of Nottingham and Quality Milk Management Services Ltd."

How the Plan works

The DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan is implemented by a vet or advisor, working with the farmer to collect herd data, and answer a detailed questionnaire. The results are fed into the system which then provides a bespoke, prioritised plan of action for that individual farm, which will, if followed, lead to a substantial reduction in mastitis.

"Vets and advisers will be trained to undertake a thorough investigation of herd management in order to identify the key mastitis influences on an individual farm," Ms Cross says. "They will gather information from all aspects of cow and farm management, for example how and where the cows are calved, the milking routine, bio-security measures and cow nutrition. They will also observe a milking and teat score all cows in the herd.

"As part of the plan there will be analysis of the mastitis epidemiology. Strategic milk samples will be taken from clinical cases across the herd, as well as from the 10 highest cell count cows," she adds. All this information will give a comprehensive picture of the mastitis situation on farm, whether the unit is dealing predominantly with environmental or contagious pathogens, and where the problem mainly lies, dry cows or milking cows. The plan will then pull on its huge amount of knowledge to provide some key targeted control measures that will really hit that particular mastitis problem hard.