Dairy producers are being invited to take part in farmer-led trials of a new mastitis test that could help to reduce antibiotic use.
The invitation was made by Innovative Farmers – a network of producers that runs on-farm trials known as field labs.
The not-for-profit organisation explained that previous research had shown many mild or moderate mastitis cases cured spontaneously without the need for medication.
But the challenge in deciding whether to treat a cow lies in knowing which bacteria are responsible and the severity of the infection.
A new on-farm bacteria test kit from MastDecide has been designed to help farmers determine the cause of infection and whether antibiotics are needed.
The aim of the field lab is to investigate whether the culture test works in a practical situation and what effect it has on antibiotic use, animal welfare and milk quality.
Liz Bowles, associate director for farming and land use at the Soil Association, said that mastitis was one of the biggest reasons for antibiotic use on dairy farms.
“The industry is working hard to reduce usage and significant progress has already been made in cutting preventive treatment during the dry period,” said Ms Bowles.
“However, reducing the use for treatment of clinical mastitis during milking periods remains a challenge and it is crucial that possible solutions are tested on real farms.
“We hope this new culture test will allow farmers to identify more easily when an infection is unlikely to benefit from treatment with antibiotics,” she added.
How to get involved
The trial will be based in the south and south-west of England and any dairy farmer in those regions can take part.
Participating farmers will be linked with their farm vets and researchers at the Royal Veterinary College.
The first step is a meeting in Alton, Hampshire, on Thursday 6 June for interested farmers and vets to find out more.