Welcome to the Monthly Mastitis Minute
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Mastitis Treatment Protocols and Key Performance Indicators

Mastitis treatment protocols more than answer what antibiotic to use, how often to use it and at what volume. Mastitis control programs need a comprehensive plan, everything from cow identification, defining clinical cases, reviewing complete milking procedures, training milk technicians, testing milking equipment, sampling bulk milk, recording treatment, and following milk withholding times. Treatment protocols are a critical tool in mastitis monitoring and control, reducing residue risks, and ultimately, cow and herd health.

Specifically, this month's newsletter outlines key performance indicators (KPI) that dairy producers can use to monitor clinical mastitis. Information in this issue comes from Dr. Ruegg's 'A Practical Look at Monitoring Mastitis Control Programs.'

If you'd like to learn more about monitoring mastitis control programs, check out UW Milk Quality.  There, you can also download the Key Performance Indicators fact sheets.

Developing a Milk Quality Plan

Successful mastitis control is dependent on effective detection, accurate diagnosis, evaluation of appropriate treatment options, and implementation of preventive practices that address herd specific risk factors associated with exposure to mastitis pathogens.

An effective surveillance system for mastitis includes the following elements: 
     1)  Clear case definitions and effective mechanisms to detect both clinical                and subclinical mastitis; 
     2)  Recording systems that allow for timely evaluation of risk factors;
     3)  Feedback mechanisms that allow management personnel, milking                      technicians, and veterinarians to manage milk quality.
Key Performance Indicators

Defining and Detecting Clinical Mastitis

Clinical mastitis is technically defined as the production of abnormal milk with or without secondary symptoms, but the working definition of clinical mastitis varies greatly among farm personnel.  Use of a 3-point scale based on clinical symptoms is practical, intuitive, simply recorded and can be an important way to assess detection intensity.  

Common KPI for clinical mastitis:  When using a 3-point scale, if the proportion of severe cases exceeds about 5-15% of all cases it is a signal that detection intensity and case definition should be investigated.
Monitoring clinical mastitis 
Animal health recording systems should consist of both temporary cow-side records (often used for day-to-day decision making) and permanent records (such as cow cards or computerized records) that are used to summarize trends over time. 
Those who work with small herds will generally need to review data found in paper based treatment records and will need to include data collected over longer time periods (3-4 month periods) in order to discern trends.  For larger herds, computerized dairy management record systems can be configured to allow practitioners to rapidly review appropriate data. 

Key performance indicators that are defined at the cow-level (occurrence of mastitis in one or more quarters of a cow) rather than the individual quarter are easier to record and may better reflect the important economic consequences of mastitis.  Goals for KPI are derived from populations of herds and may need to be adjusted for individual herd circumstances.
Monitoring Subclinical Mastitis 
It is not possible to control any subclinical disease without a clear understanding of prevalence and a mechanism to monitor incidence.  Prevalence of mastitis is a function of incidence (development of new subclinical cases) and duration.  For some herds, prevalence of subclinical mastitis may exceed goals even when relatively few new infections are occurring because of chronic infections caused by contagious pathogens.  Alternatively, goals may be exceeded because of environmental mastitis problems that are characterized by high incidence of new infections of relatively short duration.  The first step in monitoring subclinical mastitis is to ensure that somatic cell count (SCC) values are routinely obtained from all cows on a regular basis.  Generally all cows with SCC values >200,000 cells/ml are considered to have subclinical mastitis. 

Common KPI for subclinical mastitis:  85% cows with SSC < 200,000 (prevalence) and < 5-8% of cows developing new subclinical mastitis infections per month (incidence).
Preventing mastitis and improving milk quality is vitally important role that contributes to improved animal wellbeing, enhanced farm profitability and better assurances that food is being produced in a safe and sustainable way.

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