Somatic cell counts may be the traditional indicator of clinical mastitis, but new technologies could mean cases are spotted earlier and more accurately.

Institute of Animal Health researcher Elizabeth Berry said acute phase proteins — which form a response to disease — have potential as a diagnosis tool.

These would reduce the level of confusion which could arise with rising somatic cell counts in late lactation due to lower yields.

One acute phase protein in particular, milk amyloid A (MAA), is particularly related to mastitis and levels remain stable at the end of lactation, no matter what the milking interval.

While using MAA currently relies on a lab test, Dr Berry suggested future tests could use a dipstick-type mechanism.

“This would make the test applicable at farm level.

Alternatively, the test may be developed into an in-line system for automatic detection in the parlour.”

Currently, an MAA test is more expensive than cell counting, but prices should come down, she added.