Mastitis is a painful disease that affects animal welfare and can lead to a reduction in milk production and milk quality, increased use of antibiotics, inconvenience to dairy farmers and major economic losses. “Considering the large increase in the global population expected over the next few decades and the attendant increase in the demand for food, milk production will undoubtedly increase as well. And optimal udder health will be vital in order to achieve the necessary increases in production”, says Theo Lam, Professor of Mastitis Management and Milk Quality in Cattle, in his inaugural speech ‘About Bacteria, Livestock and Farmers’. “I recommend a reduction in the preventative use of antibiotics during the period when the cow is not producing milk and as a curative measure during lactation. Proper mastitis management, low infection rates and strong immune systems are the foundation of good udder health in dairy farms”.
Bacteria are by far the most common cause of mastitis in cattle. The prevalence of the various bacteria species changes over time, so Professor Lam recommends a new national sample survey of the bacteria currently prevalent in dairy farms. Approximately 60% of the antibiotics used in cattle are administered to the udders. At the moment, there are not indications that mastitis bacteria are becoming more resistant to the antibiotics. However, other bacteria in cattle are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, so the use of antibiotics must be reduced as much as possible.
Animals, like people, are constantly exposed to infections and require a good immune system to protect them. The condition of the teats is the first line of defence against mastitis bacteria, followed by the cow’s own immune system. Researchers are currently trying to quantify the cow’s own innate immunity in order to be able to measure the influence of the immune system under normal conditions. Lastly, the introduction of milking robots has also had a significant effect on mastitis management.
The development of knowledge is vital in managing mastitis, but the application of knowledge developed is also very important. Research has shown that there are a variety of methods for motivating dairy farmers to pay more attention to mastitis. “These are good starting points for working together with dairy farmers, veterinarians and other advisors to work harder to improve udder health and to use less antibiotics", according to Theo Lam.
On 27 June, Professor Theo J.G.M. Lam will give his inaugural oration ‘About Bacteria, Livestock and Farmers’ to mark his appointment as Professor of Mastitis Management and Milk Quality in Cattle. The oration will begin at 16:15 in the auditorium of University Hall, Domplein 29 in Utrecht.
Marieke Veldman, Communications Department, Utrecht University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, (030) 253 3430, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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