“Often the basic farm management practices don’t get much attention. We need to rejuvenate how the message is delivered to farmers in areas such as hygiene and teat inspection.” This is according to Finola McCoy of Animal Health Ireland and programme manager for CellCheck.

CellCheck, the national mastitis control programme, started in 2011 and was developed in partnership with industry bodies representing farmers, processors, service providers and the Government.  “Its main objectives is to create awareness of the issue, establish best practice, transfer knowledge to farmers and evaluating the changes that take place,” McCoy explained.

“Farmers need to ask themselves: Is this an area I can do better on?” she stressed. Teagasc research has shown mastitis can result in significant losses on any farm and where prevalent, it can significantly reduce farm profits, McCoy added.

“Mastitis reduces milk yield and leads to poor-quality milk. Together, these factors erode the milk income received by farmers and processors. In addition, antibiotic therapy used to overcome udder disease adds to dairy farmers’ costs and stress.”

According to McCoy, “clean or well-collated national data is not available yet however some studies have shown that 39 per cent of herds have a somatic cell count (SCC) average under 200,000″.

“This leaves 61 per cent of herds with a potential big issue in terms of SCC. Teagasc research shows that the average dairy farmer can improve net profitability by at least one cent per litre by improving mastitis control to reduce SCC to an achievable and sustainable level. Farmers can make more money.”

The CellCheck programme has now moved into a new phase and workshops are under way, McCoy explained.

“The workshops involve a multi-disciplinary team including co-ops, processors, service providers and vets. The workshops aim to transfer knowledge to farmers on best practice in the area of mastitis control. We have trained more than 300 people to take part in the workshops.”

McCoy stressed teamwork element of CellCheck. “I’m a vet and there are some areas where I have no expertise, such as in milking machine use, so team-based workshops are more effective way of transferring knowledge.”

McCoy is speaking at tomorrow’s Animal Health Ireland National Conference. She will be addressing the issue of reducing SCC in the national herd.

The event is taking place in Rochestown Park Hotel, in Cork. Others speaking at the event include Dr Elena DiLabio, Federal Veterinary Office, Bern, Switzerland and Dr David Kennedy, former national co-ordinator/technical advisor to the Australian Johne’s Disease Programme.