Mastitis, where are we at now?

Mastitis can cost farmers globally as much as US$19.7B to $32B annually
calendar icon 16 March 2023
clock icon 4 minute read
By: Zoetis

Mastitis has been a front of mind discussion topic in the dairy world and researched extensively over the years. As one of the most common diseases affecting dairy cows, mastitis is a significant area of concern for both farmers and veterinarians. Mastitis can severely affect the health and milk production of dairy cows, and often the reason for increased culling rates. The disease can cost farmers globally as much as $19.7B to $32B (USD)[1] annually.

Despite extensive global research and the availability of various treatments to manage mastitis, the problem persists and must be dealt with by farmers and veterinarians on an ongoing basis. Mastitis prevention tips, best practice and treatment methods are shared within the industry to benefit producers in improving cow’s health and milk production, and ultimately to save cost.

Currently, consumers globally are struggling with the rising cost of living as part of the effects of the many issues and events around the world. Therefore, a rise in cost of dairy food items would be an additional challenge in their lives which they may not be willing to take on. For example, the rising price of milk in Japan has reduced consumer demand for milk, and in turn farmers have ensued huge losses having to dispose of excess milk supply.

It is crucial to ensure that milk remains affordable for the consumer despite market volatility. Consumer demands for improved quality and regulations require more prudent use of antimicrobials.

To this end, treating mastitis appropriately has never been more critical. Antimicrobials, in the form of intramammaries or systemic injection have proven to be a very effective treatment.

The world, now more than ever, is aware and concerned about inappropriate use of antimicrobials which can have an effect on the ecosystem in the long term. The biggest concern related to this matter is the fact that many farmers use antibiotics to blanketly treat all cows suspected of having mastitis without a proper diagnosis.

As diagnosing these cows is time consuming, antibiotics are often given to all cows to treat the disease promptly. This is not the most efficient approach to treatment as it incurs more cost due to wasted milk, labour and treatments; and increases the potential for antimicrobial resistance over time.

The use of adjunctive treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is well-researched and has shown to have beneficial impacts on mastitis. Such treatments can be used at the time of mastitis detection.

As identifying pathogen type is needed to determine the right course of treatment, the diagnostic stage is one of the most important in the whole mastitis treatment process. Two of the most common tests used are purely for detecting mastitis in the first place, these are the Somatic Cell Count, and the California Mastitis Test. These tests both detect and measure (semi quantitatively), the number of somatic cells present, with an increased level indicating the presence of mastitis.

Advances in the technology of diagnostics has made it efficient to treat the many potential causes of mastitis effectively. A test that generates faster and more accurate results would become a gold standard in identifying the type of pathogen or certainly to identify gram positive cows. Current knowledge suggests that only infections caused by gram-positive bacteria benefit from antibiotic therapy.[2]

Having a quick and simple, effective diagnostic tool that could be conducted by even the most inexperienced user would be a game changer.

With growing pressure on farmers to reduce antimicrobial use, a tool which could successfully distinguish between gram-positive and gram-negative cows, would be a huge advantage in this regard. This would allow producers and veterinarians to treat the disease more effectively and not waste resources unnecessarily.

Progress must take place sooner rather than later as this problem of mastitis has been going on for years. With extensive scientific knowledge and diagnostic technologies now available, advancement in this area should be imminent.

Farmers and veterinarians depend on experts and key players in the animal health industry to innovate and revolutionise diagnostics and treatment methods to create better supply, decrease production cost, reduce the use of antibiotics, and maintain healthy and happy cows.


1 “Potential Biomarkers of Mastitis in Dairy Cattle Milk Identified”. Phys.Org, 2022,

2 Lago, A., and S.M. Godden. 2018. Use of Rapid Culture Systems to Guide Clinical Mastitis Treatment Decisions. Vet. Clin. North Am. Food Anim. Pract. 34:389-412. Doi:10.1016/j.cvfa.2018.06.001

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