DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan

Published 1 November 08

DairyCo mastitis control plan

Spring 2009 will see the launch of the new DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan. 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 going to be challenging farmers to look at their mastitis problems and solutions in a completely new way," says Charlotte Bullock, DairyCo Research 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 pilot studies."

The five point plan, which was developed in the 1960s, made large inroads into the number of cases of contagious mastitis. But mastitis, both environmental and contagious, continues to cost the industry millions of pounds each year and have real animal welfare issues.

Charlotte Bullock explains how the DairyCo Mastitis Plan came to be developed:; "About five years ago the Milk Development Council (MDC), as it was then, published a desktop review on worldwide mastitis research. A workshop was then held involving dairy farmers, vets and researchers to find out what the real mastitis issues were at farm level and where the gaps were in existing knowledge that prevented these issues being addressed.  

"From this a project developed to identify the bacterial causes of clinical and sub-clinical mastitis and responses to different treatment strategies. It also aimed to identify the main risk factors for both clinical and sub-clinical mastitis for both the farm and the cow and develop farm management strategies to reduce these risks," she says.

"We undertook a general survey of clinical mastitis in England and Wales to see what bugs we are dealing with and turned our attention to the risk factors that are present on our dairy farms every day of the year.

"The DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan is about developing a new approach to mastitis control by understanding the key influences, be it farm based - housing, cow management system, staff etc, or cow based - breeding, somatic cell count or behaviour etc.  The plan is about identifying the influences in individual herds that can raise the risk of being susceptible to pathogens, and providing a farm with a specific control plan."

Charlotte continues: "Mastitis is a problem that can best be tackled with the co-operation and expertise of dairy producers working with his vet or advisor. At DairyCo we envisage a team working together to really address the problem on farm."

From April 2009 DairyCo, in collaboration with Quality Milk Management Services and the University of Nottingham, will be training interested parties, be they farmer, vet or consultant to look at every aspect of herd management in order to identify the mastitis influences on individual farms. It will be a  thorough investigation gathering information from all aspects of cow and farm management, for example how and where the cows are calved, what the milking routine is, bio-security measures and cow nutrition.

Part of developing a farm action plan will involve taking strategic milk samples from clinical cases across the herd as well as from the 10 highest cell count cows to give the vet, farmer or consultant comprehensive information on the pattern of mastitis on that particular farm.

The plan will enable each producer to get a real picture of the mastitis situation on farm, whether they are dealing predominantly with an environmental or contagious pathogen and where the problem mainly lies, dry cows or milking cows.

"With mastitis control it is not a case of one size fits," says Charlotte Bullock. "With the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan producers will be looking at their farm situation and will have strategies that will meet its unique challenges. An action plan will be developed specifically for that farm that will clearly highlight what steps need to be taken to tackle the problem. It will mean hard work and there may need to be some changes to herd management but at an average cost of £200 per case of clinical mastitis it makes real economic sense."

There will be a cost benefit calculator to accompany the Control Plan on the DairyCo website. If you are interested in receiving more information about the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan training, please email Kate Cross at kate.cross@dairyco.org.uk.

The Results

The DairyCo Mastitis Action Plan was tested on 26 farms and the results were compared to 26 control farms, where no help was given on tackling mastitis problems. On average, among those producers who implemented a Plan, there was a drop of 22% in mastitis cases over a 12 month period.  Those farmers in the test group who really put the majority of the action plan in place, achieved up to a 36% reduction in mastitis cases over the same period.

Similar results were seen among the 20 pilot courses run this year.

Cumulative positive effects on mastitis incidences have been seen on test farms beyond the 12 months working with the Control Plan.

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