Udder health: Test, test, test…

Diagnostic tests provide insight into which cow is infected with which mastitis pathogen. The same principle applies to people when it comes to, for example, the coronavirus, and is certainly true for dairy cows when we look at mastitis-causing pathogens. For good management and good advice, it is necessary to know which infectious agent is responsible for a high somatic cell count or clinical mastitis.

In my experience over past 30 years, knowing the infecting organism forms the main basis for good advice. Without this knowledge management programs are based on gut feelings, which reduce the chance of success and unnecessarily extends the road to it. Classical bacteriology or modern methods with MALDI-TOF or PCR-technics help us gain insight into the causative agent much quicker. New research provides us with additional information and differentiates, for example, within the group of non-aureus staphylococci (NAS) between environmental- and cow-associated species. This new way of testing offers the possibility to provide dairy farmers with more specific advice on preventive measures. Susceptibility tests help us to choose the right treatment and monitor antimicrobial resistance over time.

A successful approach to mastitis is closely associated with numerous tests. There is an increase in possibilities for (rapid) diagnostics on-farm, in-clinic and in veterinary laboratories. Let’s make optimal use of these tests to assist dairy farmers in choosing a successful approach to udder health problems on their farm. Everything starts with good detective work. So, about testing: Just do it!

Otlis Sampimon is a technical specialist at Zoetis and supports vets and farmers in the field of udder health. In 2009, he finished his PhD on CNS mastitis in Dutch dairy herds and is now active as a specialized technical farm consultant who participates with international teams to improve udder health worldwide. 

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