When Mastitis is Circulating in Your Herd, Time is Money!

Real-time Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR) tests provide fast mastitis results in 2.5–3 hours and relayed to the farmer the same day.  Bacterial culture results can take up to 10 days in the case of infections by mycoplasmas.

Time to receive back test can have a severe impact on the health of the herd.  This can have a significant economic impact on the dairy farmer since diseased cows will need the right treatment and if left could have to be culled.

Even though real-time PCR generally costs more initially, approximately £20 per test compared to bacteriology - £5 per test; the benefits can easily outweigh the price tag.  Vets say farmers often don’t mind paying a little more up front because they’re getting more information about their herd’s health and a confirmed result with a real-time PCR test.

About 40–50% of clinically abnormal milk samples tested with traditional culture come back with a “negative result as the pathogens had died in transit or from poor sampling.  This means the culture grown didn’t identify the pathogen or pathogens causing mastitis in the herd.  Ultimately, additional testing is needed, which requires even more time to get a conclusive result.  During that extended time, you could have mastitis disease spreading to other cows in the herd causing financial losses from reduced production.

For high-value lactating cows, is it time to consider switching to real-time PCR testing?  PCR is detecting the pathogen’s DNA and minimises the issues you may have with culture testing.

Like any disease, the faster a mastitis diagnosis is determined, the faster an action plan can be developed.  The next steps might be a treatment protocol, no treatment, or culling depending on the pathogen or pathogens that are found.  With the global focus on antibiotic reduction, this is a critical step in the diagnostic process.

It is no longer good enough to guess at which mastitis pathogen(s) you are treating.  PCR diagnostics can provide this information in just a few hours.  For example, Escherichia coli infections may have treatment protocols reduced or stopped upon confirmation of the diagnosis.  On the other hand, a chronic Staphylococcus aureus infection might have the treatment protocol extended or the infected cow may be culled depending on her history of treatment success.

For further advice, please talk to Mark Yearsley on 07984 785190 or e-mail markyearsley@fcgagric.com  Mark would be happy to advise you in conjunction with your vet.