We all know that mastitis is a problem. It is an endemic disease on dairy farms all over the world, leading to lower milk yields and a higher risk of culling. In order words: mastitis leads to a less efficient milk production. Moreover, mastitis affects milk quality directly through a change in technical and hygienic milk quality and indirectly through the intrinsic milk quality. This makes mastitis a concern for the dairy industry. Mastitis is also an animal welfare problem. Clinical mastitis leads to at least discomfort (especially when the cows are lying) but often to pain. At the same time all farmers are paying attention to mastitis prevention, some farmers more than others. And also those costs that are already made do add to the total costs of mastitis.
Although all farmers do spend money and time on mastitis prevention, we often see opportunities for improvement of the mastitis situation. However, advisors almost always base themselves on mastitis parameters such as incidence of clinical mastitis and/or somatic cell count (SCC) derived measures (e.g., bulk milk SCC, number cows with a high SCC). When farmers do not follow our advises, the stated reason often is an economic one, where farmers make a comparison between certain and relatively easy to estimate costs of additional prevention and the uncertain and difficult to estimate benefits of a lower mastitis burden on the farm. A good understanding of the economics of mastitis is therefore important for mastitis advisors.
In this contribution, the theoretical foundation of economic decision making on mastitis will be provided as well as an overview of our knowledge about the economics of mastitis. A few examples of mastitis economic research will be given.
Framework for optimal mastitis decision making
In 2017, a paper was published where the theoretical foundations of the economics of production diseases were explained. Theoretically, the economic effects of mastitis are based on a change in the relation between input and output on a farm. Mastitis, just as other production diseases, change that relation (the so-called production function). With more mastitis, more resources (capital, labour and/or land) are needed for the products that are produced (milk (as main product), meat and calves (side products)). In other words, the technical relation between inputs and outputs changes when the mastitis situation changes. With a higher incidence of mastitis, a farmer may choose to increase the level of input (veterinary care, drugs, replacement of cattle) to maintain the level of milk production. A farmer may also choose to not change the level of input and just accept the
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