As in many other parts of the developed world, dairying in the UK has undergone a radical restructuring over the past 40 years. Total cow numbers have reduced, as have the number of producers, whilst cow yields have increased. In England and Wales there are approximately 10,500 producers milking 1.8 million dairy cows producing on average 7,600 litres of milk per year. From a level in excess of 600,000 cells/mL in the late 1960s, bulk milk somatic cell counts in milk sold off-farm have now, in 2013, fallen to an all-time low and are currently running below 200,000 cells/mL.
National Mastitis Control Schemes
National schemes, programmes and campaigns have been used for mastitis control in dairy cows for many years. An early example in the 1960s was the Five Point Plan in which a basic set of measures was proposed that were considered to have a beneficial effect on clinical and subclinical mastitis. At that time, control plans were relatively straightforward, because with mastitis incidence and prevalence at very high levels (e.g. in the UK the incidence rate of clinical mastitis was around 150 cases per 100 cows per year), and contagious pathogens being responsible for the majority of mastitis that occurred, the scope for improvement using relatively simple measures was huge. Since then, levels of production have escalated, cow genetics have progressed and management systems have changed dramatically, thus the management of mastitis has become much more challenging. In general, environmental pathogens have become increasingly important and the prevention of environmental infections is often more complicated than reducing the transmission of contagious pathogens; environmental management often requires more detailed, close-to-farm evaluations and farm-specific advice.
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