Dairy producers are all too familiar with the economic consequences of clinical mastitis. From reduced production and discarded milk, to treatment and labor costs, to the loss of milk quality bonuses, clinical mastitis costs can add up quickly. Monitoring herd health and production data on a monthly basis provides a tell-all about herd management practices and the effectiveness of established clinical mastitis treatment programs. This data also can signal when a change is needed. 

Complete, accurate and reliable records are the foundation of any monitoring program. However, records often contain insufficient data to provide the desired information. Or the data is there, but requires hours of tedious manipulation and clean-up prior to interpretation. Therefore, it is critical to develop a dataset from which useful information for monitoring can be extracted. 

The first and most important step in practical monitoring of any health event is to determine what questions you want to ask. Those questions help determine what data is needed and how it should be collected and recorded to make the job of evaluation easier and more efficient. Some questions to ask when monitoring a clinical mastitis treatment program include:

  • What is the monthly incidence of clinical mastitis?
  • How many clinical mastitis episodes require re-treatment? What treatments require that a cow be re-treated? This should further be evaluated by bacterial pathogen through culturing.
  • How many cows have more than one mastitis episode in the current lactation?
  • How many cows have recurrent clinical mastitis episodes (multiple clinical mastitis episodes in the same quarter greater than 14 days apart)?
  • How long are cows with clinical mastitis in the sick pen or how long is it necessary to dump their milk?
  • How many cows die or are culled due to clinical mastitis?

The next step is to develop a practical data capture system. It is important to develop a method that is easy and convenient, and thus more likely to be used. Using sick cow treatment cards allow for easy recording of treatment details, which can be transferred to the herd management software or written herd summary worksheet. Data entry protocols should also be established to ensure accurate, consistent and reliable data recording. 

Data to record for monitoring clinical mastitis treatment protocols include:

  • Quarter(s) affected during a clinical mastitis episode
  • Culture results (if available)
  • Treatment type (route of administration and antibiotic used) and treatment duration
  • Recurrent episodes (greater than 14 days apart) and if treatment is changed
  • Hospital pen days or days of milk discarded
  • Cows with a dry quarter
  • Death and culling due to mastitis
  • Individual cow somatic cell count

Once excellent data capture and recording has been established, it is possible to evaluate the data in order to monitor the effectiveness of clinical mastitis treatment programs. Data is typically evaluated monthly and the results recorded to allow for evaluation over time. Establishing a herd baseline for the parameters to be monitored is critical to the evaluation process. Realistic goals should also be established. When implemented, continuous monitoring can provide objective feedback as to the success or failure of changes in clinical mastitis management.

Reference: Wenz, J.R. Practical Monitoring of Clinical Mastitis Treatment Programs. 2004 NMC Annual Meeting Proceedings, pg. 41-46.

Source: NMC