The 30th British Mastitis Conference was held on 7 November 2018, with a workshop on mastitis data management on the preceding day. There continues to be a number of non-UK based delegates attending, including the presentation of KT posters.The amount of companies sponsoring BMC remains high with, for the first time, two Platinum sponsors (Vetoquinol and MSD Animal Health). The conference is aimed particularly at veterinarians, farm consultants, research scientists, students and academics, in fact at anyone with an interest in dairy farming and mastitis. The organising and scientific committee bring together a mix of researchers and practitioners from both the UK and further afield, and for the 2018 conference speakers were invited from USA as well as the UK, with KT papers presented from Denmark, USA and the UK.
The first speaker was Phil Elkin, Veterinary Surgeon, Westpoint Farm Vets, Cornwall, UK who presented his “Strategy for reducing antimicrobial use on dairy farms”. He acknowledged that there is an increasing pressure on agriculture in general, and the dairy sector specifically to reduce the use of antimicrobials. Phil highlighted that mastitis treatment and prevention represents the most numerically significant use of antimicrobials in the sector and as such, steps to reduce the use of antimicrobials for mastitis needed to be investigated and utilised. Antimicrobial use should also be rational and appropriate, which may, in fact, lead to an increase in antimicrobial use on a specific farm depending on which metric is used.
The primary route to reduction of antimicrobial use in mastitis is reduction of the rate of mastitis. Identifying the causal mastitis pattern, and then taking appropriate steps to reduce mastitis rate will often see the best return on investment. Other approaches which have attracted recent interest include selective dry cow therapy, and the use of
rapid diagnostics and pathogen-based treatment protocols. Phil advised that these may have a role on many farms but care is needed around their implementation.
The following speaker was Andrew Bradley, University of Nottingham and Quality Milk Management Services who presented research findings on “Selective dry cow therapy at the quarter level”. The importance of the dry period in mastitis epidemiology is well acknowledged, as is the role antibiotic dry cow therapy can play at this time. However, pressure on the use of antimicrobials in food producing animals, and prophylactic use in particular, has brought the use of antibiotic dry cow therapy into focus. Whilst the selective use of antibiotic dry cow therapy at the cow level is now well established, the selective use at quarter level is less well understood. Andrew’s collaborative paper outlined the preliminary findings of a large UK study investigating selection of antibiotic treatment at the quarter level in both low and high SCC cows at drying off using the California Mastitis Test (based on its widespread availability and low cost). Preliminary analysis of data from this study suggests that in herds such as the type recruited to this study (i.e low SCC and low prevalence of contagious pathogens) there is probably no justification for the general use of supplementary antibiotics in CMT positive quarters in low SCC cows at drying off. However, there may be scope to further reduce antibiotic use by withdrawing antibiotics from low SCC (CMT negative) quarters in high SCC cows. Andrew advised that any such approach should be implemented with care and only when a mechanism for monitoring the likely impact is in place.
Four KT posters were selected for oral presentation. Pablo Silva Bolona, University of Wisconsin, presented his research on “Effect of teatcup removal settings on milking efficiency and milk quality in a pasture based automatic milking system”. Katharine Leach, Quality Milk Management Services, summarised data from the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan as to whether “Herd mastitis patterns change over time”. Michael Farre, SEGAS, Denmark, presented information on “Quality assessment of E.coli diagnostics in Danish veterinary clinics”, with the final KT presentation being by Brian Pocknee, The Dairy Group, on a “Comparison of the effectiveness of teat disinfection coverage by hand held sprayer, dip cups and a platform mounted automatic teat sprayer”.
Pete Edmondson, Udderwise Ltd discussed “Mastitis in developing Africa”. Peter advised that developing Africa does not have a history of dairy farming. The keeping of local indigenous cattle is important and a sign of wealth. He stated that people recognise the nutritional value of milk but it is a luxury, with the price of milk varying greatly. In Malawi it’s $0.23/litre while in Ethiopia it can be as high as $0.70 to $0.90/litre.
The price of milk needs to be considered with the cost of labour which is in abundance and cheap. The minimum daily wage in Malawi is about $1 pe day, equivalent of 4 litres of milk a day.
Africa poses a challenging climate with most countries having a rainy season for four to five months of the year and this can be very intermittent. Planted crops often fail as the expected rains do not arrive in time for germination and even then, if the rains do not continue, crops fail. Cows will eat a wide range of forages depending on the type of farmer. Concentrates may also be fed but the quality can be highly variable. Africa is the world’s dumping ground for poor quality products and very high prices due to a range of tariffs and corruption in most countries. Peter’s paper focussed on small-scale farmers, where the main cause of mastitis is Staph. aureus, although this is based on a limited number of bacteriology analysis, and up to 21 hours maybe related to looking after just one cow and taking its milk to the processor!
Mario Lopez, DeLaval, USA looked at how to “Meet expectations with the teat disinfectants of today”. In summary he stated that modern teat disinfectants are complex formulations that have multipurpose; that a good teat disinfectant has to kill bacteria quickly (germicide activity), spread over the skin easily (surfactant), and ensure teat skin is healthy, soft and undamaged (emollient); modern disinfectants have a formulation that can be sprayed as well as dipped, if the correct spray system is used, to ensure good skin coverage as soon as possible after milking and that manufacturers are responsible for developing and commercialising pre- and post-milking products that meet producer needs, but that are also well aligned with market and regulatory demands. Mario concluded that modern day teat disinfectants do more than kill bacteria on teats, still an essential function of any product used pre and post-milking. Healthy and soft teat skin should be a target of any dairy, and this is achieved by using products that are not harsh to skin and have an acceptable level of emollients. He advised that surfactants play an important role in teat disinfectants, from complexing iodine, foaming properties, and by improving teat coverage. And finally, the overall benefits of any well formulated product can only be achieved if applied properly on teats, whether by manual or automated means.
The final paper of the 2018 British Mastitis Conference was a practical mastitis case study of reducing the clinical mastitis rate antibiotic use on a Somerset dairy herd, using a targeted approach. Rachel Hayton, in-practice veterinary surgeon, Synergy Farm Health and Daniel Macey, Dairy Farmer both presented how, by following a targeted approach based on analysis of good mastitis records, the farm were able to make significant inroads in reducing clinical mastitis and antibiotic use, which is continuing to improve.
The plan was based on the AHDB Dairy Mastitis Control Plan. In July 2017 the clinical mastitis rate was running at 83 cases/100 cows/year and the farm antibiotic use had been highlighted during routine benchmarking carried out by the veterinary practice. Data analysis led to a diagnosis of environmental mastitis of predominantly dry period origin and a farm visit was carried out to identify the major risk factors. A list of control measures was prioritised following discussion with the farmer and his routine veterinary surgeon. A year later, the clinical mastitis rate had dropped to 39 cases/100 cows/year, lactating cow tube use had dropped from 3.90 to 0.66 DCDVet. Both Rachel and Daniel highlighted the importance of continual monitoring of udder health, as subsequent reviews have identified lactation origin mastitis as currently the biggest problem and control measures have been implemented to reflect this.
The 2019 British Mastitis Conference will be held on Wednesday 6 November 2019, with two workshops on the previous day. More information is available at www.britishmastitisconference.org.uk where all previous proceedings are available to download.
Text and Picture: Brian R Pocknee