DairyCo is a non-profit organisation funded by a statutory levy on all UK milk producers. One of DairyCo''s functions is to offer advice and help educate farmers in order to develop their businesses. The company recently hosted a series of regional meetings to raise awareness of the disease and how to help reduce its impact. BRUCE JOBSON reports MASTITIS continues to cost UK dairy farmers millions of pounds in lost revenue on an annual-basis. However, the true cost of the disease can have an impact far beyond lost milk revenues.
Cows can also suffer from the resulting weight-loss, a reduction in general health and wellbeing, acute stress and subsequent reduction in fertility.
Ian Ohnstad, an internationally renowned mastitis prevention expert, recently urged the region's dairy farmers to implement a DairyCo mastitis control plan as part of their overall herd health programme.
Ian, a consultant with The Dairy Group, suggested farmers monitor and record clinical mastitis cases as well as Somatic Cell Count (SCC) in order to help diagnose patterns of infection within the herd.
"The national average for mastitis is around 65 cases per 100 cows. Farmers need to benchmark their own herds and accurate record keeping is essential. There are approximately 1.8million cows in the UK and this means around 1, 176,000 cases over a 12-month period. That works out at a mastitis case every 27 seconds.
"Implementing the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan (DCMCP) is about helping to do the basics correctly. The more information that is built-up helps identify causes of mastitis and how best to implement ways to reduce its impact.
"Record-keeping is essential and builds up a pattern of the number of individual incidences occurring as well as, the frequency of the disease and the number of quarters infected.
"In chronic cases, farmers may have to take the decision to eventually cull animals from the herd but generally, farmers should be seeking to prevent the disease."
Ohnstad explained the costs involved include discarding milk, treatment, as well as, time, labour and vet costs.
Cows can suffer from milk yield depression, reduced milk quality, udder tissue damage, loss of appetite and depressed fertility levels. Individual farmers may prefer to set their own culling criteria, but he considers as a general rule, to cull cows that have had three infected incidences in one quarter or, five cases of chronic mastitis per lactation.
Further costs can occur such as spreading the disease through cross-infection as well as the full costs of increased culling and subsequent higher replacement rates. When the full costs of mastitis is taken into consideration, introducing a simple and effective mastitis control plan will lead to increasing levels of herd health and animal welfare benefits as well as, increasing on-farm profitability.
He said, "It's possible that when conducting a review or implementing a mastitis control programme, that numerous recommendations can be identified.
"However, it's better to start by implementing four or five recommendations and gradually work through the results.
"Each individual farm is different and there are always different factors involved but typical examples include changing milk-liners on a six monthly-basis.
"This procedure is herd-size dependent, and large milking herds need to be monitored on a regular basis and therefore, farmers should consider changing liners every 2,500 per cow milkings.
"Milk liners can get worn out faster owing to a number of factors such as thrice-daily milking and deterioration from excessive chemical usage during dairy plant cleaning. …