In 2014, China was the third largest producer of milk in the world. While China has a national dairy herd of some 14.6 million cows and milk production that reaches 37.25 million tons, at just 5.5 tons per cow yield remains low. While many factors contribute to low production, mastitis is definitely the number one cause. It is, in fact, the most common disease on Chinese dairy farms, a reality that leads to cull rates of 20–70%.
In China, herd size ranges wildly. Some 45% of producers operate farms with more than 100 cows, while 15% operate farms with more than 1,000 cows. Practices and management styles differ from farm to farm too. While the more large-scale operations are equipped with qualified veterinarians and modern technology, the smaller farms tend to lack this support system. Large-scale farms also tend to be cleaner and, therefore, less affected by disease.
In 2009, the National Special Monitoring and Rectification Plan for milk quality and safety was implemented, said Dr. Wenxue Wu, associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agriculture University. Since that time some 125,000 batches of milk have been sampled and tested. Most of them, said Wu, met quality standards.
Today, the work continues. More and more laboratories in scientific research institutes and universities transfer knowledge and experience on the prevention of disease, including mastitis. Many of the universities offer technical services to dairy farms, including milk quality testing, isolation of pathogenic microorganisms and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. This type of model assists more and more medium-scale operations.
Both the Chinese government and dairy associations are working to push forward the development of professional cooperative models and joint-stock milk source bases in small farms in order to facilitate access to advanced technologies and equipment. However, despite all the work that’s been done, Chinese milk quality still needs improvement, said Wu. It is something, though, that will be tackled in the coming years, he concluded.
Dr. Wenxue Wu is an associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agriculture University. He is a member of Commission of Chinese Veterinary Pharmacopoeia and a member of Expert Committee of Evaluation of New Veterinary Drugs, Ministry of Agriculture in China. The main goals of Dr. Wu’s laboratory are the diagnosis of dairy mastitis, identification of the pathogenic microorganisms of dairy mastitis and tests of antimicrobial susceptibility, and efficacy evaluation of newly developed medicines, as well as the development of vaccines against dairy mastitis.