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Redefining milk quality, new milk microbiota research highlight NMC annual meeting

Published on 18 April 2019

The National Mastitis Council’s annual meeting was held earlier this year in Savannah, Georgia. Three Progressive Dairyman contributors who attended the meeting offered their thoughts on the major themes and observations they saw from the meeting.

What did you learn at this year’s meeting you will be talking about for the rest of the year?

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Jeffrey BewleyThe most important things I learned from this year’s NMC program were from the mastitis treatment short course taught by Dr. Ron Erskine and Dr. John Middleton.

This course provided valuable insight into the complexity and practical considerations for treating mastitis. Each year, NMC offers multiple short courses on timely topics that are invaluable for those of us working in mastitis control.

—Jeffrey Bewley, Ph.D., PAS
Dairy Housing and Analytics Specialist
Email Jeffrey Bewley

What did you hear (either in a presentation or side meeting) that you believe will influence how producers treat and aim to prevent mastitis on-farm?

Julia HamannThe new conversation about milk microbiota is very intriguing. Thanks to improved DNA sequencing techniques, it is possible to report on DNA from newly identified bacteria in milk from the cow’s mammary glands with or without mastitis.

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Studies suggest it is no longer necessary to culture such bacteria to show their presence. However, not enough is known yet about milk microbiota, and research is still in the early stages. More research and understanding would be needed before this approach could be used as a tool for diagnostic or clinical applications such as milk microbiota transplantation.

—Julia Hamann
Dairy Marketing Manager
Email Julia Hamann

During this year’s meeting, what did you notice were prevalent themes?

Michael BoltonFirst, maybe it was a little overdue, but more emphasis was placed on milk as a food, thus quality as previously described (low-SCC, low-bacteria, residue-free) should be a given, and the “new” quality has a broader connotation. This being good cattle welfare, environmentally conscious stewardship and attention paid to quality of life for the farmworkers.

Next, more emphasis should be placed on the health benefits of milk rather than time spent defending the dairy community. “Lean in” is how one speaker characterized it.

Finally, as mastitis bugs remain a centerpiece of any NMC meeting, I saw much improvement and emphasis on rapid “on-farm” culture systems to aid in judicious use of antibiotics for mastitis treatment, selective dry cow therapy and how the udder microbiome may be impacting these areas. end mark

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—Michael Bolton
Veterinarian Merck Animal Health 
Email Michael Bolton

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