Improving udder health and milk production - Veterinary Practice
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Improving udder health and milk production

The European Mastitis Panel Meeting explored Ireland’s diary industry and its approach to bovine health management.

In Ireland, the milk is produced as the consumer wishes. The mild climate makes it possible for cows to be kept in pasture almost all year round, spending only two months per year in stable. Securing good animal and udder health is therefore a challenge and a priority for the stability of the local milk production industry.

Udder health experts from 13 European countries met on the occasion of the 13 European Mastitis Panel (EMP), May 9-10, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. The goal of the meeting was to learn about the Irish milk production system, to exchange knowledge and practices and to finalise the first collaborative milk quality research. The European Mastitis Panel meeting is organised yearly by MSD Animal Health, each year in a different EU country.

“The annual EMP meeting encourages the exchange of the latest quality data about dairy research specific to a European country between EU dairy agriculture experts and MSD Animal Health employees within that market,“ said Jantijn Swinkels, Director, Scientific Marketing Affairs, Global Ruminants Team.

There are 1.1 million cows on 18,000 farms in Ireland. An average farm has 75 cows and is run by a family. The average milk yield is 5,250 kg per year with 4.1 percent fat and 3.5 percent protein. Dairies on the island produce butter and cheddar. An export hit since the 1960s, Kerry Gold Butter sells particularly well in the US and Germany. The goal to produce good pasture butter is achieved from cows that eat and graze grass all year round. Milk production in Ireland is designed to maximise profit with little financial input. The Irish have comparatively low costs in milk production, because they can save on housing, bedding and concentrated feed.

On the research farm of the University College of Dublin, experts got a picture of the Irish milk production system. Seasonal calving can be a challenge for animal health in the Irish pasture-based system because everything, from drying off to calving, happens at the same time. This potentially increases infection pressure and thus requires excellent management. Although genetics and udder health has greatly improved in the last few years thanks to good collaboration between the Irish institutes, staphyloccus aureus remains a challenge and one of the most frequently isolated pathogens in milk of infected udders.

The experts discussed the final results of this two-year collaborative research project at this meeting. Gerrit Koop from Utrecht University coordinated the collection of 300 staphylococcus aureus
samples from many EU countries and sequenced their genome. Differences are found in the regional distribution, the pathogenicity and the association with the species (cattle, humans, poultry). PhD student Jurriaan Hoekstra, also from Utrecht, presented the genomic and related pathogenic diversity of this mastitis pathogen throughout the EU.

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