Nationally, if the mastitis cell count was reduced by 10 per cent, it would be worth €37.6m for the Irish dairy industry.

This is according to Teagasc’s Laurence Shalloo who was speaking at this week’s Milk Quality Conference.

Mastitis was identified as a priority disease within the Irish dairy industry by both dairy farmers and industry animal health experts, which led to the development of the CellCheck programme.

“In order to support this programme it was necessary to understand the extent to which mastitis affects farm profit, processor returns and ultimately industry profitability,” he outlined in his presentation to a packed house at the conference in Tipperary.

A team of researchers at Teagasc has undertaken an analysis of the impact of mastitis on farm, processor and the overall industry profitability.

“The impact of mastitis on farm costs, farm receipts and farm profitability are presented across a range of bulk milk somatic cell count (SCC) categories from <100,000 to >400,000 cells/ml,” he explained.

A meta-analysis of the relationship between SCC and raw milk composition, cheese processing characteristics and cheese composition was carried out and used to establish the impact of mastitis on processor returns.

“As SCC increased the impact of mastitis on the volume of product that could be produced, net processor returns, milk price and the values per kg of fat and protein were calculated,” he said.

“The farm and processor analysis were then combined to estimate the impact of mastitis on the Irish dairy industry returns, accounting for both farm and processor costs,” he further explained.

“The analysis suggests that as cell count reduced from >400,000 to <100,000 cells/ml, overall returns to the farm should increase by 4.8 c/l, including the farm and processor related effects.”

According to the researchers, nationally if the cell count was reduced by 10 per cent, it would be worth €37.6m for the Irish dairy industry.

Also presenting at the conference was Animal Health Ireland’s (AHI) Finola McCoy who spoke on the CellCheck national udder health programme.

AHI has identified mastitis as one of seven priority disease areas, and a national udder health programme called CellCheck was initiated at the end of 2010, she explained in her outline.

“The objectives of the CellCheck programme are setting goals, building awareness, establishing best practice, building capacity and evaluating change,” she explained.

“CellCheck has been shaped by both national and international research and experience. Previous research in Ireland, such as the €uroMilk pilot mastitis control programme, has helped to identify some of the obstacles to improving udder health, that exist at farm level.

In conclusion she said the key strengths of CellCheck are its multidisciplinary and collaborative nature, involving all relevant industry bodies in both the development and delivery of the programme.