At the recent farm walk at Rockwell farm, Michelle McGrath from Animal Health Ireland (AHI) spoke to the group of young farmers about mastitis control on farms.

The walk was organised by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) and was the first farm walk of the Tipperary Young Farmers’ Group.

The group was set up to encourage young farmers to become involved with the ICMSA.

PJ Browne from the Fertiliser Association of Ireland and Grassland Agro also spoke at the event, giving the group some insight into why fertiliser prices have increased and on the outlook for prices.

Michelle McGrath from AHI and Ronan O’Connor from ICMSA, along with a number of young farmers that attended the event


Michelle McGrath from AHI spoke to the young farmers at the event about the Cellcheck programme operated by AHI.

“Cellcheck is a national mastitis control programme,” she said.

“The aim of the programme is to get everyone to work together to get a better handle on mastitis.

“Currently, still, one-third of dairy farmers in Ireland have a cell count of over 200,000cells/ml, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.

“Some people think mastitis can be a quick fix, but it is not – there are a lot of little things that need to be right.”

Mastitis control

Michelle then explained why mastitis control on farms is so important.

She said: “Dairy farmers are food producers. Ireland has a good reputation for producing high-quality products and it is important that we maintain that.

“Having better quality milk also means that farmers make more money.

“The national average bulk-tank somatic cell count (SCC) has improved from 272,000 cells/ml in 2009, to about 180,000 cells/ml in the last number of years – so there is still room for improvement.”

Michelle explained that often farmers consider mastitis and SCC issues as being separate – but they are not she said.

“They are the same disease just at a different stages,” Michelle said.

“If you have a high SCC or if you notice that the SCC in your bulk tank is increasing you have some cows with mastitis.

“Mastitis can be clinical or subclinical and depending on the bacteria it can be very contagious and spread during milk process.

“Each cow that has a high SCC can spread the bacteria to the next seven cows milked using the same cluster.

“So you might start with one cow that has mastitis, but it can be spread very quickly. Some cows can cure themselves, but there are also cows that you will not be able to cure.”

Cost of mastitis

Michelle then outlined to the group the actual cost of mastitis to dairy farms.

She said: “Some people think that the only cost of mastitis is the milk that is thrown away and the treatment cost.

“But there are also penalties from the co-op, lost bonuses and culling costs.”

Michelle said that if you have a cow producing 25L/ day with a cell count of 300,000 cells/ml, this cow will have a reduced yield of 2L/ day.

Continuing, she said: “Based on the price of milk this year it can easily add up to a large amount of lost income.”