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1108 PD: Seven steps to reducing mastitis and improving milk quality

Published on 24 July 2008

1. Define the problem.
Use DHIA or on-farm records, bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) records, bulk tank cultures and individual cow cultures to try to determine which cows are infected and when they are getting infected.

2. Identify the troublemakers.
Use bulk tank and individual cow cultures to determine what organisms are causing elevated SCC or clinical cases. Different organisms require different solutions.

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3. Generate possible causes and solutions.
Based on the information you gathered in steps 1 and 2, work with your diagnostics team to generate a list of possible causes and consider possible solutions. If there are multiple causes, you will need to use a multiple-pronged approach. Decide on the most likely causes and the best solutions.

4. Develop an action plan.
Work with your team to develop an action plan based on step 3. Determine how the preferred solutions will be implemented, who will be responsible for the implementation and who will need to be trained.

5. Set up a plan to monitor progress.
One of the most important components of any plan is to set up monitors to show whether your plan is working. The use of multiple monitors is often best since no monitor is perfect. Some possible monitors include:

• bulk tank SCC graph for each milk pick-up

• monthly bulk tank culture for mastitis pathogens

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• individual cow DHI SCC

• California Mastitis Test (CMT) of all fresh cows (How many cows are calving infected? Which quarters?)

• culture of all fresh cows with high CMTs (What organisms are causing infection?)

• culture of all new clinical and subclinical infections each month (What organisms are causing infection?)

• new infection rate on all cows (goal less than 5 percent)

• new infection rate on fresh cows (goal less than 10 percent)

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• rate of clinical mastitis (goal less than 2 percent per month)

6. Carry out the plan.
Make the changes you and your team decided are appropriate based on facts. Be careful not to tinker with the plan unless there is strong evidence the plan is not working.

7. Monitor progress and adjust plan as needed.
Review the monitors and progress monthly (or more frequently) to determine if the desired progress is being made. If it is, continue on the same course. If not, find out why. Is the problem the plan of action itself or failure to successfully implement the plan? Re-evaluate the action plan and retrain personnel. Continue to fine-tune your plan until you achieve your goals. Progress can be slow depending on the causes of the problem or the plan being implemented. However, if you use a systematic approach, you will make consistent progress toward your goal. PD

References omitted but are available upon request at

—Excerpts from Udder Topics Newsletter, February/March, 2006

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