Cow mastitis monitoring module: somatic cell count and CMT

For an introductory and abstract description of the Ekomilk – AMP system, click on the button:
Ekomilk-AMP system description

What does this “mastitis monitoring” module do?

The mastitis monitoring module combines data from real-time measurements, touchscreen inputs (rugged tablet or smartphone) and databases. In this module, we combine individual and herd-level data from common sources (health indicators and parameters) in order to determine the category of the animal via algorithms. As a next step, the actions to take on both herd level and on individual level can be derived via another set of algorithms. “Individual level” means per animal or more granular – for instance per udder quarter (udder teat). “Animal” usually means cow (bovine, including calves, heifers and higher lactation cows) although some goat, buffalo and sheep farms are also using our Cloud-based software.

Common health indicators and parameters for analyzing the herd and individual cow status can include for instance:

  • Somatic cell count (SCC) results per quarter, per udder (also called “composite”, a mix of 4 udder quarters or udder versus teats) and per bulk milk tank. Accurate somatic cell count can be performed in less than 50 seconds and easy on-farm in the milking parlour at less than $0.04 per test. More about somatic cell count in the chapter below.
  • CMT (California Mastitis Test), using the typical paddle with 4 shallow wells. The CMT is manual, not automated and only gives a rough indication of the udder health status; common subclinical values.
  • Visual observations for the udder and the milk, usually performed during the daily milking routine or during the vet visit, for instance:
    • swelling
    • redness
    • chafing
    • colour change
    • ringing
    • warts
    • position of the teats
    • dirt on the teats or udder
    • milk flakes
    • clogged milk ducts
  • Parity: the lactation number of the cow has an influence on the mastitis impact and mastitis treatment options for the cow, at least when discerning first lactation (first calving heifers) from higher lactation cows.
  • Milk production
  • Medical record, fertility and disease history
  • Medical treatments
  • Other treatments
  • History of at least 12 months of all the above indicators and parameters

For an introductory and abstract description of the Ekomilk – AMP system, click on the button:
Ekomilk-AMP system description


Which algorithms?

An algorithm means a configurable or customisable decision tree. In other words, while we provide a simple (sometimes simplistic?) default algorithm for cow (animal) classification, you can send us your own, optimized algorithm which for a small free we implement in your own, private usergroup. It is logical that each private usergroup prefers its own decision algorithms on herd and on individual level:

  • country limits (thresholds):
    • our modules and instruments are used worldwide while the legal limits (thresholds) for for instance bulk tank somatic cell count differ strongly from 1 country to another, for instance 200 000 cells/ml for a composite udder sample SCC can be regarded as healthy in certain emerging markets while recently in countries like the Netherlands, 50 000 cells/ml has been decided as the healthy threshold for heifers. For bulk milk tank thresholds, values between 150 000 and 400 000 cells/ml are common and depend again on the country and region within a country besides milk supplier contract.
  • mastitis prevalence rates:
    • simply said, there is no use in using the earlier mentioned 200 000 cells/ml decision threshold for composite udder sample SCC if all are none of the animals (cows) on a specific farm or in a specific region are ever above this value. The local context (historical SCC average on farm and region) has to be taken into account for individual and herd decision making. Bulk milk tank SCC and the associated subclinical and clinical mastitis incidence rates are gradually bought down over several months or even years.
  • mastitis control plan:
    • data (health indicators and parameters) is usually only periodically available, whether on individual or herd level.  Based on the frequency of individual and herd analyses, algorithms might have to be adapted especially is the sampling frequency is truly limited.
  • available treatments:
    • if you (veterinary, farm technician) are working on a bio farm, medical treatment options are not the same as on conventional dairy farms. The use of antibiotics has to be limited in any case on all dairy farms and the choice for antibiotics is often getting more limited due to national legislation.
    • treatments for subclinical mastitis are still a topic of discussion and research. While medical treatments with antibiotics in the mid of a lactation are indeed often questioned, other actions are very much recommended to reduce the number and of sub-clinical mastitis cases, for instance:
      • culling in case of recurrent clinical cases: for several major mastitis pathogens, the cure rate is low when administering antibiotics if these antibiotics didn’t help in the past
      • proper hygiene during the milking routine: applying Options pre-dip and post-dip solutions (or sprays), using separate, disposable paper tissues for each cow to clean the teats before milking, milking infected (high cell count) cows last etc.
      • proper cow housing, bedding, stalls: dirty udders is asking for problems.
  • available data sources, cow health indicators and parameters:
    • sometimes crucial data such as individual somatic cell count is not available; our default algorithm is used to automatically try to find CMT result history instead.
  • domestic cow (animal) breeds versus common Holstein breed for dairy farms
  • other reasons

Why somatic cell count?

Somatic cell count remains by far the most reliable indication of the udder health (mastitis) status. The somatic cell count level indicates whether an udder quarter or the udder in general is inflamed, also if it is not clinical (no visible signs, sub-clinical). Udder inflammation is usually caused by bacteria while other factors such as cow stress can also play a role. Inflammation and infection have a good correlation but are fundamentally different; various correlation studies are available. One of the difference between infection and inflammation is explained by the significant self-healing rate for certain types of mastitis.

Other mastitis indicators than somatic cell count, such as lactoferrin, N-acetyl-b-D-glucosaminidase and lactate dehydrogenase have been recently commercialised but the challenge for farmers, farm technicians, veterinaries and udder health specialists remains to interpret these results. The number of studies available on decision-making with composite somatic cell count values grew exponentially since the 1960s and is many factors higher than any other mastitis indicator. Probably for every country with dairy livestock there is at least a few studies available about mastitis prevalence rates and common somatic cell count levels, individual and in the bulk milk tank (per udder quarter much less data is available).


Where to find CMT history, medical records and observation history?

That’s where this mastitis monitoring module also helps: CMT results can easily be entered via touchscreens on rugged liquids smartphones and tablets, suitable for use in rough environments like stalls and milking parlours. We also interface with common external databases for a fee for each private usergroup besides our own measurement instruments which can measure and transfer analysis results in real-time. Dashboards of evolution of your cow or globally on your farm or region are automatically generated, please see the example image below. Please try our demo and contact us for more information.

Evolution of cow mastitis and Udder Health on herd and on individual level: Automatic Summary graphs for dashboard
Evolution of cow udder health and mastitis on herd and on individual level: Automatic summary graphs for dashboard

How to perform bulk milk tank and individual somatic cell count on-farm?

Whether your farm employs conventional milking techniques (rotary, herringbone, carousel,..), fully automatic robotic milking or manual milking, there are now instruments which enable accurate somatic cell count on the farm (in the milking parlour), in the milk collection truck and in the laboratory at less than $0.04 per test and in about 65 seconds on average. The typical payback time for farm sizes between 40 and 500 cows is less than 6 months. The upfront investment cost in our mastitis management system is only a fraction of the extra farm profits which are likely when reducing the mastitis incidence rate.

AMPI Ltd (the Animal Monitoring Platform, that’s us) sells in one combined package:

Please contact us for more information by clicking here.

Our software and hardware solutions have been developed together with universities in USA, Europe and Asia. Veterinaries , farms and milk collection centers (milk processors) around the world have been working with our solutions (under the Ekomilk brand) for over 12 years. The total number of happy end-users is over 120 000 (Sept 2016). Every user is important to us!