Systematic udder health improvement and immunology research reviewed - Veterinary Practice
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Systematic udder health improvement and immunology research reviewed

THE second meeting of the European Mastitis Panel (EMP), which comprises 21 members from 10 countries, took place in Salzwedel, in the north-east of Germany, in April.

The members discussed strategies for optimising udder health, presented work concepts in mastitis labs and discussed the latest results of immunology research.

The meeting was initiated by Jantijn Swinkels, of Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, who organised the meeting in co-operation with Volker Krömker of the University of Hanover.

The objective of the EMP meetings is to exchange detailed information on mastitis-related topics. This two-day meeting started with a visit to a dairy farm in Saxony-Anhalt, a German federal state which was part of East Germany before the reunification in 1990.

Investing in comfort

The local herd manager explained to the group what challenges had to be faced after the political change almost 20 years ago, but: “We invested in cow comfort and stress reduction for the animals. As a result we got a high yielding herd with good health performance.

“Even with the low milk price in these days, we still work economically and we plan to increase the number of cows from 770 to 1,000 in the next five years.”

Alexandra Koch from the Animal Health Service in Saxony-Anhalt presented a computer-based, systematic udder health programme called SESAM, which is used on large farms in the region by her team.

It is based upon the 10 Point Mastits Programme (NMC, USA) but is more farm specific and detailed. The project is run by an interdisciplinary team: the Animal Health Service collaborates with scientific institutions specialising in udder health, metabolism, feeding and experts for milking technique.

Alexandra said: “We prepare the farm visits in advance, then we spend four to five hours on the farm and afterwards we analyse data (Table 1).

Decision trees

“We use decision trees for various problems on different levels (e.g. increased heifer mastitis incidence, high rates of subclinical mastitis or teats with hyperkeratosis). They enable systematic action on specific problems and comparability of advisers’ recommendations.

“The actions and recommendations are farm-specific, detailed and very well documented. The most important point is that we never give more than three recommendations to realise in the next four to six months.”

The daily routine of a private mastitis laboratory (MBFG) was presented by Reinhard Tschischkale. The lab works nationwide, mainly on identification of mastitis pathogens. In 2008 it examined more than 200,000 quarter milk samples. Bacteriogical examination is done exclusively by the three vets in the team.

Daily advice

First results are given after 24 hours by fax. On the basis of the results, vets and farmers get telephone advice every day. Additionally, the MBFG team offers farm visits and consulting in the northern part of Germany.

Herr Tschischkale said: “We examine cows with clinical and subclinical mastitis and we take samples from every cow in a herd when we suspect contagious bacteria.

“The results of herd sampling are presented in sorted lists than can be used for treatment, culling and prevention methods.”

Holm Zerbe, managing director of the clinic for ruminants at the veterinary faculty in Munich, presented research results on the immunology of the udder quarters.

He and his study group have demonstrated that the immune response to an E. coli infection differs from that to a S. aureus infection, which is not activating the acute immune response of the udder and, therefore, does not lead to a severe mastitis like E.coli.


Using animal models, they could demonstrate a pathogen-dependent difference in the time kinetics of induced pathogen receptors and defence molecules. “These results could have an impact on treatment in future,” Dr Zerbe said.

Members presented briefly the situation in their countries and commented on the presentations of the others. It became clear that laboratory procedures and interpretation of results differ between countries.

“We all have similar problems, but the solutions are often different. That is the point where everybody can learn a lot,” one of the members concluded.

■ The 3rd EMP meeting will take place in May 2010 in France. Further information is on the EMP website,

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