Farmers who supply First Milk are the first in the country to trial new 'GenoCells' technology to transform dairy herd management.
The innovative service provides individual cow somatic cell counts (SCC) from a single herd bulk milk sample using genomic data.
It allows farmers to take a targeted approach to treating individual cows with elevated somatic cell counts but which are not displaying signs of clinical infection, improving health and welfare.
In addition, it provides information to help focus selective dry cow therapy – useful in the drive to reduce antibiotic use on farm.
First Milk farmers and the National Milk Records (NMR) have been trialling the new technology for several months.
GenoCells takes advantage of DNA data stored for each animal in the herd which must be derived from NMR's genomic testing service GeneEze, or via Zoetis’ Clarifide or Genus’ GENEadvance services.
It is the first of many services that will take advantage of detailed and accurate genomic data on each animal and use it to target improvements in sustainable and cost-effective cow management in future.
Managing the project, First Milk’s Toni Bruce said: “Our objective was to assess if GenoCells technology could provide robust and accurate data on which to base selective dry cow therapy, reducing reliance on antibiotics and improving herd welfare.
"Now several months into the project, we have no doubt around reliability of the service and see this ground-breaking technology opening the door to unrestricted, flexible access of individual cow somatic cell count data."
As the technology relies on genomic data, Ms Bruce said the real bonus to this service was receiving an evaluation of genetic potential for every animal in the herd.
"We see this information as key to better efficiency for our farms, enabling members to progress and optimise herd economic and environmental potential at an accelerated rate.
"It offers a cost-effective and convenient introduction to udder health management and herd improvement services for those farms not currently recording.”
Matt Tinney, a First Milk member from Gloucestershire and one of the farmers trialling the tech, added: “We have considered milk recording in the past, but we managed cell counts through ad-hoc testing, which is always a bit of a guessing game.
"The monthly testing is so simple and very straightforward, with the data provided enabling us to target and deal with those chronic sub-clinical cows, bringing our herd cell count down to below 100,000 cells/ml for the first time ever.”
The GenoCells technology was designed in France and introduced as a commercial service, known as GenoCellules, in 2017.
It is piloted under licence by NMR, with support from Zoetis providing Clarifide Plus genotypes.