Samples being examined in a lab

CellCheck Partner Laboratories

Prevention of mastitis is our primary goal – if cows do not get infected, then we do not have to worry about how to cure them! Knowing which pathogens the herd is being challenged with, relating to both cases of clinical mastitis and cows with high SCC, can help to ensure that efforts at prevention are targeted correctly.

We can do this easily by taking a sample of milk from a cow with mastitis (clinical or sub-clinical), and getting a laboratory to identify which bacteria are in the sample.

Milk sample plate with bacterial growth.
Milk sample plate with bacterial growth.

Once the laboratory has grown the bacteria, they can also check if they are resistant or susceptible to a predetermined list of antibiotics (‘susceptibility testing’). While this does not guarantee that an infected cow will be cured by a particular antibiotic, as conditions on a laboratory plate can differ dramatically from conditions in the udder, it is important to be aware of any resistance issues that may be emerging on farm and to choose a treatment that should be effective.

Antimicrobial susceptibility plate.
Antimicrobial susceptibility plate

Taking good samples

Good samples yield good results, so hygiene is essential – whichever bacteria you collect in the sample of milk, whether they come from the quarter or from the environment, will be identified by the laboratory.  Mixed bacterial infections can occur in mastitis, but when three or more different bacteria are identified in one sample, this is universally recognised as evidence of a contaminated sample.

Taking a sterile milk sample
Taking a sterile milk sample

For step-by-step instructions on taking and handling milk samples in a sterile fashion, see Management Note A in the CellCheck Farm Guidelines for Mastitis Control.

CellCheck Partner Labs

CellCheck continues to work in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to harmonise methods and standards of commercial services available for mastitic milk samples. The requirements to be recognised as a CellCheck Partner Lab are currently under review, and when agreed will be published on this webpage.

Prudent prescribing of Dry-Cow and In-Lactation Antibiotics