Will a greater emphasis on the pain of mastitis lead to greater advances in the control of milk quality?

It is undeniable that scientific and technological research has made significant advances in our understanding of the causes of mastitis, its aetiology, the immune responses and how different strains of bacterial species react.

As a consultant my approach to mastitis problems has inevitably changed over time. When investigating a mastitis problem, an analysis of the farm’s clinical and sub-clinical results is my first action. Identifying if the main causes are of lactation or dry period origin; or are contagious or environmental in nature avoids the scattergun approach to consultancy, allowing focused recommendations to be made. We also now have a much better understanding of how different producers respond to different methods of providing consultancy, thanks to the work of Theo Lam and his colleagues in the Netherlands.
But in spite of these advances, many milk quality and udder health problems persist in dairy herds. We know that the vast majority can be solved by following the principles of the (former) National Institute for Research in Dairying’s 1970’s Five Point Plan, with some tweaking and more consideration given to the cows’ environment. So why does mastitis continue to be such a major issue on many farms in the UK and throughout the world?
It is well established in the research field how painful mastitis is to a cow. But how many producers know that? Perhaps if milk producers had a better understanding of the severe pain that mastitis can cause, as an industry we would make greater advances in reducing the impact of mastitis on milk quality, cow welfare and overall herd performance and profitability. Let’s make that our New Year message to our clients.

Brian Pocknee – bovines@btinternet.com