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Mastitis test kits
Testing at laboratory level provides the most accurate results of Somatic Cell Counts and diagnosis of causative mastitis pathogens, but the results obviously take time and with bacteriology in particular, veterinary knowledge of and advice on the best form of treatment is required.
Several means exist for testing to be performed at farm-level, the most useful and widespread of which is the California mastitis Test (CMT). While the CMT test is easy to perform - and the results easy to interpret - it only gives an indication of high cell counts and is most useful for identifying a problem quarter in a high cell-count cow. It is also somewhat fiddly to perform, but recent developments with robotic milking systems have attempted to automate the CMT testing method.
Automated measurements of the electro-conductivity of milk, which can vary from the norm in cows with mastitis, are widely-used in modern parlours to warn milking staff of potential problems with specific cows. Hand-held metering systems performing the same function are available, but are reported to provide variable results.
At least one manufacturer produces a self-contained on-farm sampling device, where a cassette is filled with a small sample of milk then inserted into the device. Within minutes the device provides a reading of the SCC of the sample - with a reported accuracy similar to that of laboratory milk recording. The device is quite expensive which explains why it is not in widespread use, despite its advantages in providing results for instant decision-making on treatment.
Several technologies are under development to provide improved on-farm mastitis testing. These include Milk Amyloid A testing, which measures the presence in milk of a protein linked to mastitis and technology to automatically detect udder inflammation by infra-red measurement of udder surface temperatures.