Recipes - String Sampling
Mastitis caused by infections in dairy cows contributes to an overall loss of $550 million dollars annually, according to the United States Dairy Association (USDA). The natural components of milk make it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow: fat, protein, lactose and an average incubation temperature in the udder of between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. There are several on-farm practices that protect the cow from getting mastitis, like pre and post dipping the udder after milking and controlling the amount of moisture in the bedding. Utilizing single use cloths for removing debris from the udder and diligently following written Mastitis Control Plans help to lessen outbreaks. Even so, the farmer is still reliant on a veterinarian to visit the farm and take samples to confirm any suspected diagnosis and treat the cow. By the time the veterinarian is involved, the cow may have bacterial counts upwards of 400,000 (what) per quarter requiring isolation from the herd in the hospital group from 10-14 days.
Farmers already have access to the paddles and the California Mastitis Test (CMT) kits, which are regularly used to monitor cow health during treatment for mastitis while they are in the hospital groups. The next level for dairy farmers is the create an on-farm microbiology lab to preemptively look for E. coli, coliforms, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, mycoplasma’s and overall standard plate counts in their healthy herd. This might seem like a daunting task, but with a small incubator and three district packs of 3M Petrifilm, dairy farms would have the tools needed to diagnose mastitis while it is still sub-clinical and increase the overall quality of the milk sent to the processor. By string sampling into a sterile collection unit and then transferring the sample to the petrifilm and incubating it, the farmer can take proactive control over the process and increase the health of the herd.
If sampled regularly, this proactive approach to herd health will lead to the lowering of costs and an overall increase in milk production, as there will be fewer cows needing to be isolated in hospital groups. This increase in herd health will also reap the benefits of lower microbiologic counts and more assurance of achieving the quality premiums on which farmers rely.
According to the USDA mastitis accounts for $400-$500 million, or $23 per cow, in lost production and revenue for dairy farmers nationwide. Further, mastitis can shorten the life expectancy of the cow and has negative effects on milk production after the cow goes through treatment. There is also evidence of a link between mastitis and biofilm formation on the surfaces of milking and processing systems. These biofilms can lead to further losses in quality premiums. This loss of revenue prevents the dairy farmer from putting capital back into operations.
One proven solution to reduce mastitis.
Implementation of a Mastitis Control Plan with special emphasis on mastitis treatment and routine pen/string sampling. Through general management and organization of the on-farm duties like bedding management and milking parlor procedures, a farm can make significant strides in controlling the spread of mastitis-causing bacteria like S. aureus and S. uberis. Animal management duties that emphasize an effective pre and post-dip process will also add value by stopping the spread of bacteria. How does the herd manager detect mastitis in the sub-clinical phase?
When the infected quarter is red, inflamed, and painful to the touch the mastitis is already in a clinical phase. This means immediate quarantine from the herd and a course of antibiotics. One approach to detecting mastitis before it reaches the clinical phase is weekly to bi-weekly pen/string sampling.
By finding mastitis when it is at sub-clinical levels, the production losses and cost of medications are lower. This translates to the cow being in the hospital group for a shorter duration, and back in the parlor creating revenue sooner. A routine pen sampling schedule reduces the operating costs of testing every cow when somatic cell counts in the bulk tank begin to rise. Early identification and management will lead to overall higher revenue and profits which dairy farmers desperately need in today’s market.