Useful information to apply over the winter - Veterinary Practice
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Useful information to apply over the winter

reports on the proceedings at this year’s British Mastitis Conference

MORE than 100 delegates attended
this year’s mastitis conference, held
in the different venue of Worcester
Rugby Club. The conference
facilities overlooked the pitch which
was receiving careful grooming
throughout the day.

A third of the delegates were
veterinary surgeons from practice and
the presentations contained useful
information that could be applied over
this winter. The event was organised by
The Dairy Group, Dairy Co. and the
University of Nottingham, with an
impressive list of sponsors representing
consultancy, pharma, milking machinery
interests and dairy

The poster
competition is voted
on by the delegates
and won by a study of
a 1,000 cow dairy herd
in Somerset combining
veterinary (Synergy
Farm Health) and farm
management assessments
(Bakers of Haslebury Plucknett). The
poster asked the question: “Large herd
mastitis – how low can you go?”

This herd is milked through an 80-
point rotary parlour with nine Polish
milkers working in shifts of five people,
two farm managers and three times a
day milking. The milk goes for cheddar
cheese production and no Orbeseal is

The rolling annual clinical mastitis
incidence is eight cases per 100 cows
and at a valuation of £200 per case, the
cost of clinical mastitis in 2006 was
£180,000, which fell to £18,600 in 2009.
The dry cow new infection rate is 9%
(target 10%) and the dry cow cure rate
92% (target 85%).

The conclusion is that “this study
demonstrates that with good facilities,
following standard operating
procedures, the highest levels of
stockmanship and attention to detail,
udder health can be maintained to the
highest level even under intensive
conditions in the UK”. Further
information from Jon Reader (office

The opening conference
presentation was given by John Sumner,
who looked back over the past decades
and reviewed the progress in mastitis
control against the background of a
dairy industry undergoing political and
rapid structural change.

In 30 years the average herd size has
doubled, cell count has more than
halved but the incidence of clinical
mastitis remains high at 47-65 cases per
100 cows per year. The question was
raised as to whether the well-recognised
control methods are being adequately
implemented. It would appear that messages of best practice are not
getting through. The challenge is to
improve communication and “to go
back to basics”.

Andrew Bradley (QMMS Ltd)
provided an update of the DairyCo.
Mastitis Control Plan since it was
launched last year. The aim is to provide
targeted mastitis control measures for
the situation on individual dairy units, to
assure cost-effective mastitis control.

Veterinary surgeons and consultants
undertake a two-day training
programme. Principles of the plan and
electronic resources are covered on the
first day and then the plan is implemented on at least
one farm before the
second day of training.
A total of 132 vets and
31 consultants have
taken part with 50 more
vets and eight
consultants due to
attend further courses.
To October 2010, 428 farms have been enrolled
on the scheme.

Initial data indicate that only 23% of
the farms are implementing two-thirds
or more of the recommendations but
despite this some 3,000 fewer cases of
clinical mastitis have been recorded and
the aim is to achieve a 20% reduction in

It is too early to draw conclusions
but the initial signs are positive and
uptake is ahead of the targets originally
planned. Wholehearted industry support
is requested for the plan to have a long-
lasting benefit.

Mike Kerby (Delaware Vet Group)
has 10 herds on the scheme and finds
that the structured approach to specific
areas is well accepted but completing
the data and reviewing the analysis can
be daunting to some clients. There is
flexibility within the plan and there is
also room for clinical judgement,
described as “the art of veterinary

Detailed awareness

Enthusiasm and willingness to try the
plan is important initially and also to
have success and improvements. It is
not only the herds with high cell counts
and a high incidence of clinical mastitis
that can benefit from the detailed

Dan Norris (Delaware practice
client) was unable to present his paper
but the content is in the proceedings.
This farm has a particular approach to
therapy for high cell count cows and
specific infections at the end of

One week prior to drying-off, a
sample is assessed for bacteriology; dry
cow therapy and teat seal are inserted at drying-off and an injection given at the
same time for Strep. uberis infections by
the farmer and for Staph. aureus later by
the vet at the next visit. The use of
combination therapy for problem cows
is worthy of further understanding.

James Montgomery, a cheese
producer with a Friesian and a Jersey
herd, based his decisions on mastitis
control according to effects on the
quality of cheese. The plan has only
been in place for a few months but
environmental bacteria in the dry period
are recognised as a problem source.
Deep straw dry cow beds have been
installed as part of a new dairy.

Assessment of performance is
linked to aspects of the plan but
practical advice is required, not old
messages of losses against zero cell
counts. The point was made that the
bigger the plan, the lower the feelings of
involvement by farm staff.

The most likley route for infection
of the mammary gland by Strep. uberis
was identified by Professor James Leigh
(University of Nottingham) as from gut
to environment to teat end.

Not all strains of Strep. uberis are able to cause mastitis
after introduction into
the mammary gland.
Once within the gland
the organism has to be
able to grow in milk
and dry cow secretions,
survive host defences
including phagocytic
cells and be able to
induce disease. By
deleting or mutating
genes, it is possible to
determine how this
alters function of the
organism as an
approach to control.

It would be possible
to produce an antibody that inhibits the
function of Strep. uberis and thereby
immunise the cow. In the past work has
been carried out mainly on strains
derived from the mammary gland but as
a great deal of Strep. uberis comes out of
the back end of the cow, these isolates
are also worthy of attention.

The organism cycles from the gut,
to the environment, to the gut, with
occasional detours to the mammary
gland. The question arises whether more
strains of non mastitis-causing organism
prevent the establishment of infective
strains. It may be possible to utilise
natural strains that are unable to infect
the udder as probiotics. The professor
concluded that the application of
technology is getting closer to being
able to control Strep. uberis.

The use of PCR technology to
identify pathogens, as an alternative to
bacterial culture, was promoted by Hannah Pearse (NMR). The range of
organisms able to be identified from a
sample is greater with antibiotic
sensitivity results available at the same

The application of PCR is expected
to improve the efficacy of therapy
through a more informed approach to
treatment. James Allcock identified from
the National Mastitis Survey that a third
of the farmers do not utilise
bacteriology and that two-thirds use
more treatments than advised by

Alison Clark (GEA Technologies)
presented a detailed paper on the 12
active ingredients in teat disinfectants,
which is available in the proceedings.
Iodophor-based products are still the
most popular on UK farms.

With reference to various
calculations and common sense
observations, Jamie Robertson
(Livestock Management Systems Ltd),
pointed out that ventilation of buildings
can directly influence the survival rates
of E. coli and Strep. uberis.

There is great potential to improve
existing buildings by creating good airflow and recognising
the role of temperature
differences between the
inside and the outside.
Bacteria within aerosols,
flowing over a straw bed
or cubicle, can lose
microbial activity with
evaporation. Moisture
management of bedding
is assisted by ventilation.

It was emphasised
that removal of heat
and moisture from a
cow area is more
important for mastitis
control than stocking

“The role of the milking machine in
mastitis” was outlined by David Reid
(BouMatic, Wisconsin). In considering
change he advises, “Always do what is
best for the cows.” Removing the milk
gently, completely and quickly will
reduce the new infection rate, combined
with consistency of cow handling and
udder preparation.

Citing examples of kinked hoses,
liner squawks, vacuum stability, pulsator
performance and peak milk flow claw
vacuum, the point was made that it is
important to complete the physical
examination of the system before
arriving at a diagnosis.

Some of the problems are solved by
minor changes but it is sobering that his
conclusion is that “most milking
systems do not function correctly”.

  • Further information and a copy of
    the proceedings can be sourced through

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