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

To get good results… take good samples, and use a laboratory that has a proven performance record i.e. a CellCheck Partner Laboratory.

Taking good samples:

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 y 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 has been working in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to harmonise methods and standards of commercial services available for mastitic milk samples. Limerick Regional Veterinary Laboratory (RVL) has developed a proficiency test (PT) scheme, which all commercial laboratories offering milk culture/PCR services are welcome to participate in.  Phase 1 of the PT scheme focused on bacterial identification, and provides participating laboratories with an opportunity to evaluate their methods and results on a quarterly basis, and score their performance. Phase 2 of the PT scheme will look at standards of susceptibility testing services on offer.  Participating laboratories also contribute results from commercial samples received into a central, anonymised database, which means that there is a more comprehensive understanding of the pathogens causing mastitis in Irish herds, and any related antimicrobial resistance patterns.

Any commercial laboratory that successfully participates in the DAFM PT scheme is recognised as a ‘CellCheck Partner Lab’, delivering mastitic milk sample services to an agreed standard and undergoing continual evaluation in this area.

Current CellCheck Partner Laboratories

RVL PT scheme Terms and Conditions

CellCheck Partner Labs Terms & Conditions

Code of Good Practice Regarding the Responsible-Prescribing and Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals