• Examining the impact of mastitis on the profitability of the Irish dairy industry

      Geary, Una; Lopez-Villalobos, N.; O'Brien, Bernadette; Garrick, D.J.; Shalloo, Laurence (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      Mastitis was identified as a priority disease within the Irish dairy industry by both dairy farmers and industry animal health experts, which led to the development of the CellCheck programme. In order to support this programme it was necessary to understand the extent to which mastitis affects farm profit, processor returns and ultimately industry profitability. To this end, an analysis of the impact of mastitis on farm, processor and the overall industry profitability was carried out. The impact of mastitis on farm costs, farm receipts and farm profitability is presented across a range of bulk milk somatic cell count (SCC) categories from <100,000 to >400,000 cells/mL. A meta-analysis of the relationship between SCC and raw milk composition, cheese processing characteristics and cheese composition was carried out and utilised to establish the impact of mastitis on processor returns. As SCC increased, the impact of mastitis on the volume of product that could be produced, net processor returns, milk price and the values per kg of fat and protein were calculated. The farm and processor analysis were then combined to estimate the impact of mastitis on the Irish dairy industry returns, accounting for both farm and processor costs. The analysis suggests that as cell count reduced from >400,000 to <100,000 cells/mL, overall returns to the farm should increase by 4.8 c/L, including the farm and processor related effects. Nationally, if the cell count was reduced by 10%, it would be worth €37.6 million for the Irish dairy industry.
    • Understanding and using somatic cell counts to improve milk quality

      Ruegg, P.L.; Pantoja, J.C.F. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      The production of high quality milk is a requirement to sustain a profitable dairy industry and somatic cell count (SCC) values are routinely used to identify subclinical mastitis and define quality standards. The objective of this paper is to review the use of SCC as a diagnostic tool for subclinical mastitis in order to improve milk quality on dairy farms. Mastitis is detected based on inflammation subsequent to intramammary infection (IMI) by pathogenic organisms. Individual cow SCC values are used to detect the inflammation that results from IMI and are necessary to define the prevalence and incidence of subclinical IMI. A threshold of <200,000 cells/mL is considered to be of the most practical value used to define a mammary quarter as healthy. The development of IMI is the most significant factor that influences milk SCC and assessment of monthly values to determine newly and chronically increased SCC can be highly diagnostic for resolving problems with increased bulk tank SCC. Methods to reduce the development of new IMI are well known and adoption of best management practices for milking and herd management have consistently been shown to result in reductions in bulk tank SCC. Implementation of mastitis control programmes can be improved by focusing on three practical recommendations: 1) Farmers should work with their advisors to develop an annual udder health plan that includes clear goals for milk quality. 2) The annual udder health plan should emphasise prevention of new IMI. 3) Farmers must identify and manage chronically infected cows. Proactive management of IMI can be extremely effective in helping farmers produce milk that meets industry standards for milk quality.