Milk Matters - Richard Davies, DairyCo extension officer for Wales

Published 2 October 09

Dairy producers are being encouraged to take a holistic view to tackling the problem of mastitis in Welsh herds, and look 'outside the box' for ways to combat the disease.

Mastitis is one of the largest costs to the dairy industry and right now it's a particularly hot topic. Tomorrow, farmers, vets and representatives from the dairy industry will meet for the annual British Mastitis Conference at Stoneleigh, discussing the latest research and development around the disease. And, at next week's Welsh Dairy Show on October 20th in Carmarthen, DairyCo staff will be on hand to outline the new Mastitis Control Plan, an approach that changes the way mastitis is tackled on farm.

Mastitis is an expensive problem; the average cost of a clinical case of mastitis is between £200 and £300. Therefore a 100 strong herd with clinical mastitis can cost £12,000 a year; add losses such as somatic cell count penalties, yield loss and secondary health effects and the cost rapidly increases.

DairyCo's Mastitis Control Plan looks at a variety of on farm factors. To build up a comprehensive picture of a farm's mastitis problem a variety of information and samples need to be gathered and a thorough investigation of the herd's management undertaken by specially trained vets and advisers. The result is a bespoke plan of action for the individual farm, covering not just traditional areas connected with mastitis control but also topics such as water provision, feed space, and grazing policy.

Initial reports are very encouraging, with an average 22% drop in mastitis over a 12 month period among farms that implemented the plan.

There are an increasing number of Welsh vets undertaking the training, with the facility subsidised by the Welsh Assembly Government's Farming Connect service, and the training courses are also open to farmers.