Mastitis, Udder Health, and Milk Quality
Losses are incurred both with subclinical and clinical manifestations of mastitis - losses occur due to reduced production, discarded milk, drug costs, veterinary fees, labor costs, and costs of replacements when animals are culled because of udder health. A cost of mastitis that is not always readily apparent to dairy farmers is the reduced cheese yield that results from milk with an elevated somatic cell count. It has been estimated that overall economic losses (direct and indirect costs) due to mastitis in the US alone amounts to about $2 billion each year.
In addition, preventing and treating mastitis accounts for the majority of antibiotic use on dairy farms. Therefore, if the dairy industry is going to reduce the amount of antibiotics used, it needs to find ways to reduce mastitis, as well as ensuring that optimal prevention strategies are used.
Mastitis control in dairy herds is frequently promoted based on the increased production of milk and thus increased profits that result from better udder health. While this is certainly true, consumers of milk and milk products are also increasingly becoming interested about how these products are produced - they are demanding wholesome, nutritious, safe milk and dairy products, produced by healthy cows. Improving and maintaining a high level of udder health is therefore also important for maintaining strong market demand.
Controlling mastitis is of vital importance, since milk from cows with clinical mastitis cannot be sold. Sub-clinical cows also produce less milk, therefore decreasing profit for the farm. Steps must be taken to rid the mammary tissue of the infection in order to regain full milk production ability.
Penn State Extension contacts for mastitis, udder health and milk quality.