Inside the modern milk testing laboratory

By Richard Mills,
Based in the heart of England, the Cattle Information Service is making the most of latest technology to give UK dairy farmers an edge in the quest to improve animal health and output.

The Cattle Information Service (CIS) deals with over four and a half million samples a year from all over the UK. The daily testing levels vary from as low as 6,000 to up to 30,000, all handled by nine technicians using routine analysis equipment to test the milk samples for a range of tests such as protein, lactose and somatic cell count in less than 12 hours. “We have to make sure that we have the right equipment available to meet those volumes on peak days, says Managing Director, Sue Cope. 

Speed is not the only aspect of the CIS approach to milk testing. 


MilkoScan at CIS 

After a sample has flowed through the routine milk system it is moved into the microbiology lab for disease screening, for instance for Johnes disease and BVD. The test results are delivered using web-based systems to help farmers and advisors to make timely management decisions. “The farmer is getting a clear and complete picture of how his animal is performing and the health of that animal,” says Cope. 

Yet more valuable information is in the pipeline, subject to an investigation by CIS of new testing opportunities for Ketosis and fatty acid profiling as part of the routine milk tests with the FOSS MilkoScan™ analyser. The MilkoScan is part of the FOSS CombiFoss™ which also includes the Fossomatic™ somatic cell counter. 

The tests do not involve any additional time or process in handling the milk samples, as head of laboratory operations, Dena Snidall, explains: “It is all hidden in there somewhere, it is just a case of taking it out,” she says. 

How CIS, UK provide dairy farmers with more information

Cattle Information Service, UK make the most of technology to give dairy farmers an edge in the quest to improve animal health and output.

Ketosis caught on the FTIR radar

Ketosis occurs in dairy cattle when energy output for milk production is too high, relative to energy input from feed and uptake from fat deposits. Sub-clinical ketosis occurs when too little feed (or too low energy concentration in feed) is offered to the cow. Clinical ketosis occurs if the cow stops eating due to acidosis or other diseases while still producing milk.

In both cases, energy uptake from fat deposits is too high, as is the conversion of fat to glucose in the liver. As a result, acetone and beta hydroxy butyrate (BHB) are excreted as residues.

An indication of levels of the acetone and BHB residues can be provided by the Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) technology used in analytical instruments such as the MilkoScan Analyser.

Milk with a healthier balance of saturated and unsaturated fats
The ability to monitor saturated and unsaturated fat content in milk with fatty acid profiling can improve the characteristics of milk for healthier dairy products.

The FOSS MilkoScan™ can reveal the 15 main groups of fatty acids in a milk sample. Dairy farmers whose milk does not match the ideal profile of fats can be alerted so that they can take action by adjusting the feed for their cows, for example, feeding based on more traditional grass grazing and less corn has been found to reduce levels of saturated fats. Breeding programs have helped to breed cows giving a more favourable balance of fatty acids in milk.


MilkoScan FT+ at The Cattle Information Service

MilkoScan FT+ at The Cattle Information Service 

The Cattle Information Service 

Based in Telford, Shropshire, The Cattle Information Service (CIS) provides routine milk testing and much more. Fertility, health, conformation and ancestry of cows are all important factors that determine if a cow is an asset to the herd or a liability.

CIS offers a web based ‘Your Herd’ management program that encourages the farmer and advisors to view the complete picture of the herd and investigate individual cows, allowing essential management decisions to be made without the need to spend valuable time searching for information from different sources. Services to farmers include:


  • SMS text message to your mobile when your results are available online
  • Routine testing of all individual milk cows for urea levels as well as butterfat, protein and SCC
  • Award winning ‘Your Herd’ web service
  • Electronic file links to update farm and vet software