Dairy farmers are invited to trial a new on-farm mastitis test as part of industry efforts to reduce antibiotic use.
The field lab will assess whether a new on-farm bacteria test kit from MastDecide is an effective tool to help farmers determine the cause of infection.
Bovine mastitis is the persistent, inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue due to physical trauma or microorganisms infections.
Mastitis, a potentially fatal mammary gland infection, is the most common disease in dairy cattle worldwide.
The field lab will also look at the need for antibiotics as research shows that most mild or moderate mastitis cases cure spontaneously without medication.
Innovative Farmers, the not-for-profit network that enables farmer-led research, will connect farmers and their farm vet with researchers at the Royal Veterinary College.
They will look to investigate whether the culture test can be can be practically used to reduce antibiotic use without affecting animal welfare and milk quality.
'Working hard to reduce usage'
Liz Bowles, Associate Director for Farming at the Soil Association, said the new culture test will allow farmers to identify more easily when an infection is unlikely to benefit from treatment with antibiotics.
In addition, the field lab will help to determine the practicality and impacts of the test in real-life scenarios, she said.
“Mastitis is one of the largest reasons for using antibiotics in dairy farming and the industry is working hard to reduce usage, with significant progress already being made in reducing preventive use in dairy cows during the dry period.
“However, reducing the use for treatment of clinical mastitis during milking periods remains a challenge for many farmers and it is crucial that possible solutions are tested on real farms,” Ms Bowles said.
The trial will be based in the south and southwest of England and any dairy farmer in the region can take part.
A meeting is being held next week in Alton, Hampshire, on Thursday 6 June for interested farmers and vets to find out more.