It is now October, most of the spring herd has calved, you've done silage, and you may have done one, or maybe two herd tests since the start of calving.

So, is there anything to worry about?Udder web

Well, maybe there is a group of freshly calved cows that you've seen on your herd test with high cell counts! Or even worse, it could be some first calf heifers with high cell counts!! All that work rearing these heifers, and now they are infected!

What can be done? Should these cows & heifers be treated?

Read more: To treat or not to treat?

We recently had a final year veterinary student, Emma Liersch from Charles Sturt University, doing some of her practical placement work with us at Dairy Focus.

clinical-caseIt's been about 6 years since Countdown's last estimate of the cost of a clinical case of mastitis, so to give Emma a project as part of her work with us, we gave her the task to research and recalculate this cost.

Emma enthusiastically worked her way through the various cost elements, researching each using the available science and also industry contacts such as factory field officers, vets, etc.

The end result is that, not surprisingly, the cost of a typical clinical case of mastitis has risen in the last 6 years – up from $230 in 2007, to about $270 now in 2013.

Read more: Cost of a clinical case

We previously described the first results of the large mastitis survey in Australia conducted by Dairy Focus and funded by Pfizer Animal Health, which found that 90% of clinical mastitis was due to four major bacteria - Strep uberis, Staph aureus, E. coli & Strep dysgalactiae.

But are any particular bacteria more common at different stages of lactation? Does the age of the cow make any difference?

Read more: Does stage of lactation or age affect the cause of mastitis?

Craig Gallpen decided that it was time to do something about the hassle and cost of dealing with mastitis in their 450 cow herd that milks three-times-a-day in the Riverina.

craig gallpen webCraig was not only disappointed with the cost of treating clinical cases, but culling due to mastitis was affecting their ability to achieve and maintain herd numbers.

Dairy Focus always applies the Countdown principles and guidelines over five key areas of mastitis risk – drying-off, calving, lactation, environment and culling.

We started by getting milk cultures from high cell count cows and clinical cases. These showed a mixed bag of contagious and environmental bacteria (especially Strep uberis and E. coli).

Read more: A plan plus attention to detail makes a difference

Surveys of mastitis are relatively rare in Australia, so the opportunity to do a major survey across a number of farms and regions for a whole year is something not to be missed.

Earlier this year Dairy Focus completed a major mastitis survey that offers a unique insight into mastitis in the Australian dairy industry.

The survey will have significant benefits for the industry as a whole, as well as for individual farms.

Instigated and funded by Pfizer Animal Health, the survey included 66 farms across South Eastern Australia and resulted in over 4000 milk samples from both clinical cases of mastitis, and subclinical mastitis cows, being sent for culture and sensitivity over a twelve month period.

Read more: Major mastitis survey in Australia - first results

A Survey of Mastitis Pathogens in the South Eastern Australian Dairy Industry

 Neil Charman1, Rodney Dyson2 , Andrew Hodge1, Natalie Robertson1 and Sarah Chaplin2

 1 Pfizer Animal Health Australia, Parkville, Vic; 2 Dairy Focus, Tongala, Vic

(This is an edited version of the presentation given at the Countdown Mastitis Symposium in Melbourne in July 2012)


Knowing which bacteria are causing mastitis and high cell counts, gives an understanding of the source of the infection, how it is spreading, and helps to suggest treatment options.

To assist our dairy industry, Pfizer Animal Health asked Dairy Focus to co-ordinate a survey of mastitis pathogens affecting the South Eastern Australian dairy industry.

Thirteen veterinary practices enrolled 65 farms for the purpose of conducting this survey, and samples have been collected from 2986 cases of clinical mastitis and 1038 cases of subclinical mastitis between February 2011 and March 2012.

All farms enrolled in the survey had a herd size of over 250 cows, herd tested on a regular basis, and maintained an electronic herd recording system.

From the start of each calendar month, enrolled farms collected a milk sample from the first ten cases of clinical mastitis for that month.

In addition, on a single occasion, many of the farms collected a further 20-30 samples from a selected group of cows that displayed a high somatic cell count in their milk in mid-to-late lactation.

Read more: Survey of Mastitis Pathogens in SE Australia

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