8 December 2000

VETS GEED-UPOVER MASTITIS

LOSSES due to mastitis and related milk quality problems exceed £100m, or almost £50/cow in the UK, and vets should market themselves better as providing a means of tackling the problem.

Shepton Mallet-based vet Peter Edmondson told delegates at this years British Mastitis Conference, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, that mastitis is probably the costliest disease in the UK, and that losses as a result of it were easy to quantify.

"The cost benefit of advice is very high, and while this may initially be to resolve an existing problem, this will also help prevent other problems occurring in future.

"There are many dairy farmers who are unaware that they have a problem that can be addressed and result in an increase in profit, better animal welfare, improved milk quality and more satisfaction from their milking enterprise. It is important to identify these farms and work with producers rather than assuming they will come forward knowing that they have a problem," he told the audience.

"A proactive rather than reactive approach is required, and this will help to maintain future profitability of dairy farms."

He said that increasing yields increased risk, lower milk price would lead producers to cut costs, less labour would mean a reduction in dry cow therapy, bigger units would dilute overheads and increase problems and that a mastitis vaccine – often seen as a panacea – would only help in certain situations. But all these factors would increase mastitis risks.

There were several routes to identifying a problem herd, he said. This included an increase in milking cow tube sales, somatic cell count data, DAISY or computer monitoring, herd health plans – especially where herds were recording, asking practice receptionists about problems they had heard about, and talking to farmers.

"Dont assume your clients know what you do. Go to look and see whats happening on their farms."

For vets seeking to specialise in mastitis advice, he believed enthusiasm was a key requirement. "Also, understand the disease, learn practical problem solving, monitor the disease as records are vital, and develop good communication skills.

"If the problem is beyond your limitations, then it should be referred to a suitable expert. This is not a sign of failure, its the way to provide a solution as swiftly as possible at a reasonable cost.

Vets should be more proactive in dealing with mastitis, says Peter Edmondson.