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What have we learned in the last 10 years about bovine mastitis?

The dairy industry has seen many changes over the last decade. Awareness of the importance of prevention versus antibiotic treatment has been one of the greatest turnarounds. We’ve been speaking about this with Tom Greenham -Director at Advance Milking- who describes here the factors which made this change possible and the challenges that everyone involved in the milk industry will face during the coming years.


Interview with Tom Greenham, UK

Dr. Tom Greenham is a veterinary surgeon working exclusively with dairy herds and specialising in bovine mastitis, udder health and milk quality.

Tom Greenham is a veterinary expert in udder health, bovine mastitis and milk quality.

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“The concept of multi-valent vaccine against S.aureus and E.coli seemed very futuristic!
For herds with high S. aureus prevalence has proven clinically and economically effective.”

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1- What did you do 10 years ago to prevent bovine mastitis?


Ten years ago, bovine mastitis prevention focussed on reducing challenge from environmental pathogens and eliminating key risks for transmission of contagious spread.

Specific advice on housing, milking practices and general cow health were the main methods of prevention, along with specialist technical support on milking machine optimisation.


2- What was your opinion about vaccination against bovine mastitis 10 years ago? And now?


My opinion on mastitis vaccination was based on the original J5 vaccines.

Although used on some farms, these vaccines were seldom necessary if good husbandry measures were implemented.

When the vaccine STARTVAC was first launched in 2009, the concept of a multi-valent vaccine against S. aureus and E. coli seemed very futuristic! Due to a relatively low number of herds with Staphylococcus aureus mastitis in the U.K. there was a limit to the requirement for vaccination.

However, for herds with high S. aureus prevalence, combining vaccination with a reduction of other key risk factors has proven clinically and economically effective.


3- How has bovine mastitis prevention changed in the last 10 years?


An increase in availability of specialist mastitis resources and independent support has led to both greater awareness and better knowledge of preventative methods in mastitis control for veterinary practitioners.

This has resulted in a higher standard of evidence-based advice to dairy farmers, allowing them to shift focus from treatment protocols to preventative protocols.

The last ten years have seen this focus on mastitis prevention play a significant role in the U.K. hitting targets for reduction of antimicrobial sales in farm animals.


4- From your experience, what is the opinion of vets and farmers in the field regarding mastitis prevention and vaccination?


An increasing volatility of milk price and a growing drive to reduce antibiotic use have increased the motivation of dairy farmers and vets to improve mastitis prevention.

As such there has been more demand from farmers for good advice and support in reducing incidence and prevalence of both clinical and sub-clinical intra-mammary infections.

This has resulted in a very positive shift in attitude within the industry to look at all the tools available to prevent mastitis.

Vaccination has therefore been of great interest to dairy farmers, who are keen to incorporate it in to their prevention strategies.

Vets are, naturally and correctly, cautious about advising on new products but, with a growing evidence base to support vaccination, have accepted it as a valuable tool in bovine mastitis prevention.


5- What are the main challenges in mastitis prevention in the future?


The main challenges in preventing bovine mastitis remain as they have been for decades!

  • Firstly, identifying ‘bottlenecks’ -those limiting factors that prevent improvements in other areas from being effective.
  • Secondly, having effective technical or management strategies to eliminate these bottlenecks.
  • Thirdly, accurately calculating the cost-benefit of the different preventative strategies that are available.
  • Fourthly, communicating this information effectively to all those responsible for effecting change.

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