Recording mastitis incidence and treatment

Mastitis cases are usually diagnosed and recorded on-farm by milking staff, which may result in a great deal of variety in the methods by which treatments and recording are undertaken. A true representation of the level of mastitis incidence and cure rates is dependent on good accuracy and consistency of records. And, while there are legal implications as well as farm assurance stipulations for recording veterinary medicine treatments, they may not be detailed enough for analytical purposes.

For this information to be of use in comparative purposes, it is important that common recording standards are used, and as with any method of comparative analysis between different farms and herds, an appreciation of why differences occur is paramount in making effective use of the information.

The increased importance of treating subclinical mastitis and high Somatic Cell Counts (SCCs) in the herd due to an appreciation of new legislation and milk buyer requirements means that dairy farmers need to target all routes of mastitis infection.

Milk recording schemes offer individual cow SCC recording, which enables targeted treatment for subclinical cows contributing to the herd's bulk SCC and presenting a reservoir of infection for the rest of the herd. High SCCs from milk recording results may not bear any relation to the clinical incidence of mastitis in the herd, but can be used to form a link between any on-farm events or management changes which may have caused an increase in cell count to occur.

Furthermore, on-farm recording of clinical mastitis can help to account for the missing information not provided by milk recording schemes from cows that are not sampled, usually due to clinical mastitis and undergoing treatment.

Records are useful as basis for decision-making. This can include which cows to treat, which to cull, which cows' milk should be withheld from the bulk tank and which cows to group into a high SCC group.

The information recorded about clinical cases should include:

  • Cow identity.
  • The quarter(s) affected.
  • Details of clinical symptoms, including the dates observed.
  • All treatment details, including dates of administration and the number of antibiotic tubes used.
  • A diagnosis if samples were sent for bacteriology.
  • Details of the response to treatment.

Ideally subsequent cases should be recorded in a way that links to the original case. In this way, trends rather than single results can then be used for decision making on which cows to remove from the herd.

Adequate recording of mastitis incidence and treatment was part of the 5 point plan and is crucial to the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan; SCC trends over a period of time can also be analysed under the Plan to provide clues as to whether the mastitis on the farm is of the contagious or environmental type, and records of mastitis incidence and stage of lactation can suggest whether the problems are occurring during lactation or the dry period.