Mastitis - What is mastitis? Well, mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland usually caused by bacteria. Also, any injury to the udder, the use of too high a vacuum with milking machines, or leaving the machine on after the flow of milk has stopped tends to favor mastitis. It is important to dairymen because this disease is very significant to the economy of milk production. Mastitis is the most common and the most costly cattle disease in the United States. It has been estimated that the average cost per cow is equal to 1540 pounds of milk and the American Dairy Industry estimates about one-half billion dollars per year are spent. Mastitis affects milk composition, which decreases the quality of the milk for processing.
Somatic Cells - Now that we have reviewed what mastitis is, the next thing you're probably wondering is what are somatic cells and how are they related to this udder disease. Somatic cells are produced all of the time and they are shed in healthy milk. They are important because they play a critical part in fighting the harmful bacteria that cause mastitis. The increase in numbers of somatic cells is a response by the body to combat the mastitis infection. Even though the legal limit for somatic cell count is 600,000 in order to ensure maximum milk production and health of your herd, somatic cell counts of about 100,000 are recommended. Counts that tend to be higher than 300,000 may indicate a slight mastitis infection and are generally considered to be on the high side of the spectrum.
Now let me explain a little more about somatic cells to you. There are two types of somatic cells. The first is called a leukocyte, which is a white blood cell. This type of somatic cell knows that the bacteria are the bad guys and it tries to ward off these invaders. This type of cell is beneficial to the health of the cow, yet its increase in numbers indicate an infection. The second type is the epithelial cell, or "damaged milk cell." These are the cells, which normally help produce the milk, however, during a mastitis infection they fail to produce milk because of the irritation. When we count somatic cells we are actually counting both the leucocytes and the damaged milk cells.
Finally, what measures should you take to prevent such an infection from occurring? Here at A lab, & I we offer two tests to accommodate your specific needs. The first can be performed within about fifteen minutes and is a basic screening test to suggest that there might be mastitis. The second test is more accurate and the results give a number according to the somatic cell count. This is called the DMSCC method. So, simply by bringing in a sample of your milk, we can determine whether or not your herd has a mastitis infection based on the screening and the Direct Microscopic Somatic Cell Count (DMSCC). DMSCC is usually performed once a week and will assure you of the quality of your milk and save you time, money and the loss of milk production if you ever run into the common problem of mastitis in your herd.
It is important to note that the symptoms of mastitis are not always visible to the dairymen. Usually, symptoms only occur in the advanced or life-threatening stages of the disease. With DMSCC, we are able to inform you of mastitis before it can ever reach this point. So, in order to secure the quality of your milk and allow you peace of mind, take advantage of our somatic cell test to keep your dairy in the best possible condition. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to call us at (909) 947-6065 and we will be more than happy to talk with you.