What is Sub Clinical Mastitis?

Mastitis is the most predominant and costly disease that affects dairy cows. Dairy Farmers have been struggling to corner the disease for years, but it continues to be the single major issue for the dairy industry. The ability to spot mastitis early and do something about it can have a significant impact on milk production, milk quality and herd health.

When microorganisms raid a dairy cow’s udder this activates an immune response that results in mastitis, an inflammation of the cow’s mammary gland. Mastitis-causing pathogens can be contagious, spreading from cow to cow, or environmental, coming from dirty or wet conditions in the cow’s living area.

Clinical mastitis infections are those with symptoms like udder swelling or redness that are visible to the naked eye. On the other hand, subclinical mastitis infections don’t cause any visible changes in milk or udder appearance, making it difficult to detect.

Subclinical mastitis infections affect the dairy producer’s bottom line by reducing milk production, decreasing milk quality, and suppressing reproductive performance. Cows with a high Somatic Cell Count (SCC) indicative of subclinical mastitis on the first milk test have an estimated loss in milk production of more than 1,500 pounds per cow, Subclinical mastitis also risks milk quality, preventing dairy producers from getting those valued SCC premiums.

So what’s the big deal about a couple cases of subclinical mastitis? After all, you can’t see any change in the milk and the cows don’t appear to be sick or uncomfortable. Sure, your bulk tank somatic cell count may be higher than you prefer, but there’s not much you can do about that. Besides, when it comes to mastitis, you focus on what’s important — the clinical cases.

This approach couldn’t be more wrong. On average, mastitis will cost you about £200 per cow this year. And for every one clinical case, there are 15 to 40 subclinical cases lurking in your herd. (Subclinical mastitis is defined by cows with a somatic cell count of more than 200,000, but no visual signs of mastitis.) According to researchers, these subclinical cases may account for 70 percent of total milk loss due to mastitis.

Ultimately, to address subclinical mastitis, you must go back to individual cows and find those that need attention or require action.

Farmers generally ignore high cell count cows “If BTSCC (bulk-tank somatic cell count) is pretty good, I’m probably going to ignore a cow with subclinical mastitis unless something breaks
A prime example of when you could ignore a chronic subclinical cow is if her SCC fluctuates between 200,000 and 500,000 from month to month, but she doesn’t break with clinical mastitis.

Set targets with your team
Chronic sub-clinically infected cows should comprise no more than 5 percent of your herd
To help ensure success you should set up a team or at least allow one person to address subclinical mastitis on your farm. You’ll be surprised how much this will help improve milk quality and cow health.
Do not ignore Sub Clinical Mastitis!

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