Mastitis: a multifactorial disease calls for a multifactorial approach

‘A number of dairy farms have failed to solve their cell-count problem, but that in no way suggests that there is such a thing as an insoluble cell-count problem. Indeed, with the right approach, every dairy farm can eradicate the problem.’ This is the absolute conviction of Prof. Sarne de Vliegher from Ghent University.

Management, Cow health

In many ways, mastitis is a troubling disorder: it leads to stress among dairy farmers and their cattle, results in the additional use of antibiotics, leads to a waste of food and causes considerable financial damage. 

Three factors determine whether mastitis occurs: the presence of bacteria, the condition (and age) of the cow and the methods employed by the farmer. Every dairy farm has a specific bacterial pattern with a broad raft of different species, as revealed by research at Ghent University. Because there are so many factors at play, Prof. de Vliegher presented a ten-point program for successfully tackling mastitis. 

‘We have, in fact, known all this since the 1960s. Of course, knowledge of mastitis has grown enormously since that time, but the message remains: stick consistently to the program.’ For Lely, Prof. de Vliegher had one more specific message: ‘Thanks to the use of robots, huge volumes of data relating to udder health are becoming available. The art lies in correctly interpreting the information.’ 

Prof. de Vliegher also underlined the importance of bacteriological research: ‘It provides us with information about which bacteria are active at a farm and the use of medication can be adjusted appropriately.’ One more tip to advisors: keep repeating your advice to dairy farmers, even if the message is an unpleasant one. ‘Culling cows that repeatedly suffer from mastitis is a piece of advice that causes many dairy farmers to hesitate, but culling truly is necessary.’

An impression of the symposium can be seen here.

Please also see the article about ‘Udder health, common sense’.

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