Celebration time @ M²-magazine

M² magazine started in 2011 as a dream with Dr Sarne De Vliegher and his co-workers at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Ghent University in Belgium. The dream became reality and some six years and 20 editions later, the magazine is still going strong.


“We are proud of what we have achieved and hope many more editions will follow,” said Dr De Vliegher. “Meantime, we have been working hard on the digital side of M². We have developed the M² website as an online resource of what happens globally in the area of mastitis and milk quality. The website is now complemented by an e-newsletter that reaches more than 5,000 dedicated people every couple of weeks (see the latest at https://m2-magazine.org/reasuring-consumer-worldwide-interview-thomas-krober-part-22). As well, all National Mastitis Council (NMC) members (now over 1,000) have complimentary access to all M² content, thus adding to the value of NMC membership”. 

M² magazine asked previous contributors to the Focus section to outline what they consider to be the most important developments in mastitis and udder health over the past few years; and how they see the evolution of udder health. And we asked for their opinion on the merits (or otherwise!) of the M² community.

Dr Ynte Schukken is the CEO at GD Animal Health, a leading organisation in animal health and animal production based at Deventer in The Netherlands.

We asked Dr Schukken what he sees as the most important innovations in mastitis management in the last 10 to 15 years.
He said that, on many dairy farms, he sees the shift from subclinical to clinical mastitis as the main issue. Farm owners and operators need to develop the training of milking staff and set out clear milking protocols, and ensure that all staff recognize the importance of consistent procedures.

He notes the development of automatic milking systems that in many instances violate the basic principles of udder hygiene; and the issues need to be addressed.

Dr Schukken points to the welcome shift to selective dry cow therapy from the blanket use of antibiotics. He appreciates the developments of molecular techniques to understand infection epidemiology and how the agent invades the host. He highlights strain diversity or lack of diversity (there are clonal outbreaks of virtually all pathogens). He promotes the study of the mammary microbiome and says that an eco-system approach to health is crucial.

We asked Dr Schukken how the udder health situation will evolve in The Netherlands in the next 10 to 15 years?
In his opinion, there will be a continuous improvement in bulk milk somatic cell counts. He believes that clinical mastitis will remain stable. However, he warns that the situation will get worse in the absence of new developments and novel interventions.


We asked Dr Schukken if he sees a specific role for the M²-community in the future?
Dr Schukken said he believes that communication between all interested parties about udder health is very important. He says that M² is becoming a critical communications channel.


Ian Ohnstad is the Milking Technology Specialist with The Dairy Group in England,

Ian Ohnstad is an internationally recognised specialist in milking technology. He leads The Dairy Group team of milking technology specialists in England, which provides independent advice on milking parlour specification and operation, hygienic milk production, mastitis control and dairy building design. Ian has worked as a dairy specialist for almost 30 years, working in Britain and overseas. Last year, Ian was made an Associate of the Royal Agricultural Society. The award was in recognition of his distinguished achievement in the agricultural industry and his contribution to research and development in the dairy sector and his on-going commitment to knowledge transfer and training.

We asked Ian what he thought were the most important innovations in mastitis management in the last 10 to 15 years?
Ian said that from his practical experiences while operating in the field, the greatest innovation was the development of computer software to allow the recording and analysis of cases of clinical mastitis and the somatic cell count statistics for the individual cow. This has brought huge benefits in terms of being able to target advice and make firm recommendations in the areas where there is the greatest opportunity for improvement. In turn, this has substantially reduced the wasted human energy often expended while chasing issues that are not relevant to the particular problem on the farm.

We then asked Ian as to how the udder health situation will evolve in his country in the next 10 to 15 years?

Ian reckons that we will see continuous, steady improvements in udder health, driven by economic pressures which will require producers to become more efficient. Ian’s dream is that there will be a moment when every dairy farmer in the United Kingdom will wake up and realise exactly how much mastitis is costing them and adopt a proactive mastitis control programme for their herd. But he is concerned that this may not happen unless there is increased pressure either from consumers for better quality milk or by way of economic pressure on the business requiring the farmer to make changes to produce milk more efficiently.

We asked Ian for his views on M2 and does he see a specific role for the M2 community in the future?
Absolutely, 100%. Ian could not be more positive! “We are a small community (of researchers, advisers, veterinarians, industry suppliers and farmers) working in the field of milk quality and the sharing of expertise and knowledge will always be invaluable”. “At M² you manage to traverse the difficult path of sponsorship and commercial links while still being perceived as independent”.


John Middleton is Professor of Food, Animal Medicine and Surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

We asked Prof Middleton what he thinks are the most important innovations in mastitis management in the last 10 to 15 years.
Prof Middleton believes that our understanding of the host-pathogen-environmental interaction has been improved through the development of more precise, and in some cases cow-side tools to diagnose intramammary infection (IMI) and mastitis and the study of mastitis epidemiology.

Through advances in diagnostic technologies to study milking machine function and the interaction of the machine with the cow’s teat as well as technologies to diagnose IMI and environmental and skin contamination and colonization, we now have a much greater understanding of when, where and how IMI occurs.  Computational power today far exceeds that of 10 to 15 years ago allowing for more complex multivariate statistical analyses of risk factors for IMI and changes in SCC thus answering questions about the various interactions of the host-pathogen-environment that were previously not possible.

The addition of social science to our study of mastitis has allowed the exploration of what motivates change and thus is helping us understand how to implement behavioural change in farmers, farm workers, and milking personnel which in turn will improve udder health and milk quality.

Understanding how mastitis impacts cow well-being through the use of data logging technologies has advanced; as has how we think about cow well-being in the context of clinical mastitis and how therapeutic interventions might be used to ameliorate the pain and inflammation associated with mastitis.


Prof Middleton, how will the udder health situation evolve in your country in the next 10 to 15 years?

In a nutshell, challenges will include how we use antibiotics in mastitis treatment and control; how we maintain cow well-being in the context of producing quality milk and maintaining farm profitability, maintaining markets, and managing consumer perceptions of how their milk and other foods are produced.

Do you see a specific role for the M²-community in the future, Prof Middleton?

M² provides science-based information in a format that is readable by many players in the industry and other interested parties in society. Thus, M² takes what we publish in academic journals and makes it consumable by the people who need the information and can apply it to improve udder health in the cow and the quality of milk in the tank.

Peter Edmondson is a dairy veterinarian with UdderWise, a UK based consultancy specialising in mastitis, milk quality and other dairy areas and works globally. Peter has almost 40 years of domestic and international experience.

M² asked Peter to list what he thinks are the most important innovations in mastitis management in the last 10 to 15 years. Peter says:

  • The use of internal teat sealants;
  • Computerisation allowing extensive mastitis data analysis thus helping to pinpoint problem areas;
  • Selective dry cow therapy, now becoming much more commonplace;
  • Training of farm staff has improved; it was much less common some years ago;
  • The economics of mastitis (the loss of milk, financial penalties etc.) which in turn promote measures to reduce somatic cell counts.

We asked Peter to indicate how the udder health situation will evolve in his region in the next 10 to 15 years. In Peter’s view, there will be:

  • A reduction of clinical mastitis to improve animal welfare;
  • More pressure to reduce antibiotic use in cows;
  • Everyone will move to selective dry cow therapy;
  • There will be much more training of veterinarians, farmers and milkers to improve milk quality and reduce mastitis and to reduce the risk of residue failures;
  • Testing of cows with clinical mastitis so that only Gram +ve cases will be treated;
  • Stopping the use in animals of human critically important antibiotics;
  • More use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for mastitis treatments which in turn will improve welfare;
  • Increased use of robotic milking and the benefits (or negatives) that this technology can bring for mastitis and milk quality;
  • Using technology to help identify causes of mastitis so that on-farm control measures are more effective;
  • In Africa, measures to control mastitis will start with the basics, as many countries have no way to measure SCC or to carry out bacteriology.

We asked Peter if he saw a specific role for the M2 community in the future? In Peter’s opinion:

  • Definitely, a great way to raise awareness of the issues and to disseminate the latest information;
  • Articles and case histories are invaluable. Include the farmer, veterinarian or the advisors views of what the problems were and how these were tackled in the specific case. Use videos and photographs – this is a great way to demonstrate and promote success;
  • Farmer success stories are an excellent way to show what can be done. Everyone can tap in to this type of story;
  • I think M² should be more involved with the veterinary organisations. In turn, veterinarians need to engage more with the M2 community on mastitis.

Larry Fox is Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, USA

We asked Prof Fox what in your opinion is the most important innovation in mastitis management in the last 10 to 15 years?

Prof Fox said I think the biggest development during the last decade or so has been the adoption of on-farm culturing and using the results of these tests to restrict the use of antibiotics, both on the clinical side and the selective therapy side.

We then asked how will the udder health situation evolve in your country in the next 10 to 15 years?

Pulling out his crystal ball, Prof Fox said he believes that fewer antibiotics will be used by dairy operators; and there will be a move by operators to lower SCCs and reduce cases of clinical mastitis and lessen the need for treatments.

When asked him to comment on a specific role for the M² community in the future.

Prof Fox responded “Yes” – of course, it a great forum for communication which is a vital ingredient in handling the problems of mastitis and herd health. Of relevance is the quote of American historian, Daniel J Boorstin of the University of Chicago, who said “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge”

Finally, M² magazine caught up with Dr Eric Hillerton, now retired from his position as chief scientist at DairyNZ. In his opinion, the most important innovation in mastitis management in the last 10 to 15 years was the development and use of internal teat sealants. However, he did point out that they were first used on a few farms as long ago as 1985. In his opinion, understanding the nature of teat problems is central to understanding the problem of mastitis and how best to exercise control.

How will the udder health situation evolve in your country in the next 10 to15 years? 

Dr Hillerton was clear – in his opinion the dairy industry in New Zealand will reduce the use of antimicrobial preparations by at least 80%. In fact the New Zealand Veterinary Association’s aspirational goal, announced in 2015, is that “By 2030 New Zealand Inc. will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness.” And they are working collaboratively with a range of organisations to promote the responsible use of antibiotics in animals to ensure their continued effectiveness in safeguarding both animal and human health.

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