Mastitis Is the Biggest Villain of Dairy Farming in Brazil

“Many are unaware of the real financial impacts of the disease and of the relative costs of milking hygiene…”

Petterson Souza Sima is the business development manager at Kersia, graduated in zootechnics, with a master’s degree in genetics and animal improvement from the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Kersia is a company focused on biosafety and food safety, with products aimed at preventing disease and contamination in animals and humans in the food supply chain.

Petterson Sima, business development manager at Kersia

AgriBrasilis – What is the impact of bovine mastitis on cattle ranchers’ profits?

Petterson Sima – This depends on the incidence of the disease on the farm, the average milk productivity level of the cows, the price of milk in the region, among other issues.

Milk productivity losses with clinical and subclinical mastitis are the main problem. According to recent studies, considering a herd with an average SCC (somatic cell count) of around 450,000 and cows producing 20 L/day – this would be a common case in Brazil – mastitis takes daily from the rancher approximately 3 L of milk for each multiparous cow and 1 L for each primiparous lactating cow.

A herd of 100 lactating animals, with 75% multiparous cows, annually loses more than R$ 200 thousand (US$ 41.56 thousand). Not to mention the indirect losses with secondary diseases and the delay in reproduction. The farm’s SCC levels can represent the difference between the activity being profitable or not.

AgriBrasilis – How much is spent on mastitis control? Are the ranchers aware of the damage that the disease can cause?

Petterson Sima – Controlling mastitis involves many things, from the temperature of the cows to the health of their hooves.

For practical purposes, it is common for the rancher to evaluate costs with hygiene products for milking machinery and the animal’s udder. To be able to count on high performance products, the rancher hardly exceeds the cost equivalent to 2% of its revenue. This is a small investment to fight the biggest villain in dairy farming. Many are unaware of the real financial impact of the disease and of the relative costs of milking hygiene.

AgriBrasilis – What are the economic losses caused to the market? Which properties are most affected?

Petterson Sima – It is estimated that we produce 5% less milk than we could only by the average rates of SCC, something around 1.7 billion L of milk/year. In addition, the quality of the milk decreases (casein, fat, sensory characteristics), and the worse the quality of the milk, the lower the industrial productivity. That is, we produce less and use more milk than we should to make cheese, butter, yogurt, and other products.

AgriBrasilis – What are the methods for diagnosing clinical and subclinical mastitis?

Petterson Sima – The “mug test” is the main method for detecting clinical cases. It’s cheap, quick, and very easy to do and should be done during every milking process. To detect subclinical cases, it is necessary to follow the individual SCC of the cows. For this, there are laboratory and electronic methods of high precision or by estimation, such as the CMT (Californian Mastitis Test). It should be done at least every month, but it is recommended to do it every fortnight or even weekly.

AgriBrasilis – How should the prevention and control of this disease be carried out?

Petterson Sima – The entire production system will influence the control and prevention of mastitis. It is essential to invest in animal welfare, optimizing the milking routine, the feedlot litter or pasture quality, as well as taking care of milking hygiene, the control of flies, hoof health and many other issues. It is a broad, daily, and continuous work.

AgriBrasilis – What are the pre-dipping and post-dipping processes for?

Petterson Sima – During the pre-dipping we observe the existence of clinical cases of mastitis. In addition to cleaning the udder (removing dirt and pathogens), we stimulate the release of milk and combat environmental mastitis.

In post-dipping, we combat contagious mastitis and protect the cow’s mammary gland against new cases of infection, in addition to that being the best time to offer fundamental cosmetic care to the udder skin.

AgriBrasilis – Does the treatment of mastitis guarantee superior quality milk?

Petterson Sima – Yes. More than the treatment, prevention is also essential. Mastitis worsens the SCC and fat index. Several dairy companies even pay bonuses when the milk they buy has a low SCC level. However, the biggest gain happens because of the greater amounts of milk produced and lower spending on medication and disposal of milk with antibiotics.