A recent pilot study in Spain shows that working with differential somatic cell count (DSCC) analysis and the new Udder Health Group concept has great potential for dairy farms, in terms of successfully implementing a mastitis control program. In a recent interview, we caught up with Technical Director, Lara Suárez Escandón from the Interprofessional Dairy and Agri-Food Laboratory of Asturias (LILA ASTURIAS) to talk about the successful implementation of the Differential Somatic Cell Count (DSCC) test for mastitis management in their local region.
LILA ASTURIAS is a professional dairy and agri-food Laboratory, founded in 1991 and one of the first interprofessional laboratories created in Spain. They currently have 19 employees, and their primary services include analysis of dairy herd improvement samples and milk quality payment samples, for dairies and dairy farmers. The laboratory also has a physicochemical and microbiological department, where the composition of dairy products is analyzed for the presence of pathogens and bacteria for quality control. The analytical services provided by the LILA Laboratory have the accreditation and certification of different ISO standards.
“Every year we analyze more than 400,000 DHI samples and more than 250,000 milk quality payment samples. In addition, we carry out identification of mastitis bacteria and antibiograms to assist veterinarians in choosing the most effective antibiotics,” explains Lara Suárez Escandón.
Lila Asturias have a high throughput of samples and a lot of work is put into collecting and controlling them. Using methods that enable a reduction of analysis time is therefore high on their agenda.
“We have a daily sample collection service with two routes and more than 45 stops, an inspection service to attend complaints or inquiries from industries and farmers, carry out controls on collection routes, secure tanks and milk equipment to improve milk quality and the level of mastitis in herds. All this to control and certificate different quality marks, and training courses for the dairy sector.”
A pilot project in four phases
The pilot project lasted approximately one year and was carried out in collaboration with three partners: the government of Principado de Asturias, CAIA RURAL de Asturias, which is a financial institution, and Central Lechera Asturiana which is the main dairy in the region. The project involved nine farms and approximately 1000 Holstein cows in total.
- Phase 1 – Collect DSCC data
Participating farms were selected to be representative of the whole region and differential somatic cell data was collected to define the Udder Health Groups.
- Phase 2 – Check DSCC data from selected farms
The DSCC data collected at selected farms were checked using microbiological cultures and CMT and classified into Udder Health Groups.
- Phase 3 – Design a DSCC report
Meetings were held with milk quality veterinarians and academic lab staff to share the obtained results and design a differential somatic cell report.
- Phase 4 – Build a communication plan
Finally, a communication plan was rolled out, to explain the usefulness of the new parameters and the content of the new report to farmers, veterinarians, and their staff.
Phase 1 - Data collection
In phase 1, the farm selection criteria included the type of milking system, farm size and geographical location. One farm had an automatic milking machine, while the rest used manual milking systems.
As shown below, two farms with less than 100 animals, four farms with 100-250 animals and two farms with more than 250 cows were selected.
MM: Milking machine
AMM: Automatic milking machine
In terms of geographical location, the selected farms were situated in the center, east and west of the region.
Phase 2 – Classification of cows in udder health groups
Once the farms were selected the next step was to collect the data to define the udder health groups. “In October 2021, we started collecting differential somatic cell data from the DHI samples analyzed. In the first month, only 67% of the samples received, were analyzed for differential somatic cells. In the following months, this percentage progressively increased to the current 100%. With this data, the udder health groups were constructed and the percentage of cows in groups ABCD were calculated,” explains Lara.
The established protocol was to analyze the samples from the selected farms first and then classify them into udder health groups according to the criteria indicated by FOSS: 200,000 total somatic cells and 65% DSCC.