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Our Technology: Mastitis

Mastitis is caused by bacterial infection of the cow udder – it is described as being either sub-clinical (lower yields and quality of milk due to mild infection, but no obvious clinical signs) or clinical (clumped, discoloured milk, udder swelling, tenderness, animal discomfort, etc). It is a major problem, costing the EU dairy industry approximately €1.55 billion in 2005 and the US dairy industry approximately $2 billion per annum.

Currently, farmers use conventional antibiotics to treat clinical mastitis. During this period and for a period afterwards (the withdrawal period) they are unable to sell this milk on, and so this milk must be discarded. This causes economic loss to the farmer. Mastitis also reduces the quantity of milk a cow produces, and the milk that is produced is of reduced quality. There is a tiered milk payment system in Ireland, and other parts of the world, where milk of the highest quality receives the highest price, with lower quality milk (due to a mastitis infection) receiving a lower price - this is an additional loss arising from clinical or sub-clinical mastitis. Therefore there is a real driver for farmers to have cows free from mastitis producing the highest quality milk.

Current antibiotics used to treat mastitis can be ineffective, cause milk to be discarded for a number of days (up to 8.5 days) and, should a cow be unable to be treated, it will be culled, causing an additional economic loss to the farmer, as this cow will need be replaced. Current antibiotic treatments become even less effective as the animal ages, due to the emergence of drug resistance. A recent estimate by Veterinarian Peter Edmondson suggests that efficacy can be as low as 5% (a 1 in 20 cure rate; Irish Farmers Journal 22/9/2012) in older animals, although these can often be the most productive in terms of milk quality and quantity. Similarly, should a cow begin to show signs of infection the farmer can be caught in a difficult situation: He can treat the cow with antibiotics in the hope of preventing the onset of a full clinical mastitis infection, though he will have to discard the milk during and after this treatment (at an economic cost); or do nothing and accept lower milk yields and lower milk prices, while risking the emergence of an acute mastitis outbreak in his herd?

PanaMast LC avoids these issues and thus has the potential to become a truly disruptive technology in the treatment of mastitis.