Mastitis and On-Farm Milk Cultures

Dr. Tim Olchowy

Type: PDF, Article, Research
Knowledge level: Intermediate

Farm Table says:

Reducing the time taken to get results for mastitis by using on-farm testing can be of benefit to the cows, the farmer's back pocket and the quality of the milk being sent to processors.

What is the problem?

Extended turnaround times of culture results from microbiology laboratories can have a detrimental effect on cows with mastitis, especially in time sensitive cases.  The management and care of cows is often based on these results, such as the use of antimicrobial drugs on cows with mastitis caused by gram positive bacteria compared to anti-inflammatory drugs for cows with mastitis caused by gram negative bacteria.  If there is a faster turnaround and correct identification of mastitis requiring antimicrobial treatment, there are additional benefits aside from a healthy cow.

What did the research involve?

  • Teaching the farmer in the study to collect and handle milk samples, use of culture plates, use of the milk sample applicator and interpretation of culture results in a short training program;
  • Comparing the results of on-farm milk cultures to cultures grown from the same samples tested using standard laboratory methods in a microbiology laboratory.

What were the key findings?

An on-farm milk culture program can offer significant benefit to dairy producers in the selection of treatment protocols for mild to moderate cases of clinical mastitis.  For the group of animals used in this study, there was a potential decrease in the use of antimicrobial drugs by 72% due to the correct identification of mastitis requiring this treatment.

Final comment

Benefits of correct and timely identification of mastitis can significantly decrease treatment costs, reduce the risk of milk contamination, decrease food safety concerns and tissue trauma due to intramuscular injections.  In saying this, simple on-farm culture systems have very specific purpose and should not be used as a substitute for a microbiology laboratory in circumstances which require detailed identification of particular bacteria species or in certain control programs.

2017 - Australia - Dr. Tim Olchowy
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