Why is Mastitis Testing Important?
Mastitis is a hugely costly disease in cattle. It affects milk yields, pregnancy rates and can sadly result in early culling.
It is also highly damaging to animal welfare, affecting the wellbeing of cows.
The main cost to farmers from mastitis is not from the expense of treatment, but from the impact it has on the milk yield.
For example, the milk from an affected cow is withdrawn from sale during the period it receives antibiotic treatment.
There are losses too from having to throw away milk contaminated by the presence of antibiotics.
Additionally, there are costs associated with reduced cow longevity caused by early culling.
Therefore, it is essential that farmers can equip themselves with an effective tool for mastitis testing and the detection of pathogens that cause infection.
Included – Free Accumast Training Course
With your purchase you will also be receiving a free enrolment to our online course in Mastitis testing – the Accumast course delivered by Tommy Heffernan – normally €50.00
What are the Pathogens Responsible for Udder Infections?
The main bacterial species responsible for mastitis in dairy animals can be divided into two main groups based on the mode of transmission:
- Escherichia coli
- Klebsiella spp.
- Enterobacter spp.
- Streptococcus spp.
- Enterococcus spp.
- Pseudomonas spp.
- Serratia spp.
- Staphylococcus spp.
- Streptococcus agalactiae
- Mycoplasma spp
Environmental mastitis occurs primarily as a result of cows picking up bacteria from the surroundings in which the cow lives, whereas contagious mastitis is transmitted from cow to cow via milking activities.
How Serious a Disease is Mastitis?
Typically, mastitis occurs as an immune reaction to bacteria picked up routinely by cattle on the farm.
These bacteria invade the cow’s teat canal.
Mastitis may also occur where the teat is damaged by heat, or some other form of injury.
The toxins from the bacteria can damage milk-secreting tissues and ducts in the udder, and may cause permanent damage to it.
Some cows may have acute cases of mastitis, which are potentially fatal.
But even where cows appear to recover, the consequences can be far-reaching if, for example, treatment has been delayed or the wrong course of action taken.
What is Subclinical Mastitis?
Subclinical mastitis may also occur. This is where few or no symptoms are present, but where there is still inflammation of the mammary gland.
The milk that cows produce may appear normal, but is characterised by a high somatic cell count.
The infected cows may also be a source of infection for others in the herd.
Because the milk contains no visible abnormalities, it needs a form of testing which can give accurate diagnostic results.
What is AccuMast?
AccuMast, an on-farm culture system, uses colour to diagnose the major pathogens that cause mastitis just 16 hours after detection.
It makes the goal of selective therapy achievable, saving you time and money while also improving the health of your cows and the quality of milk they produce.
AccuMast plates consist of standard size (90 mm x 15 mm) petri dishes which are divided into 3 sections which comprise chromogenic selective growth media to facilitate growth for i). Gram negative bacteria (Klebsiella, spp., Enterobacter spp., Serratia spp., E. coli, pseudomonas; ii). Streptococcus spp. iii). Staphylococcus spp.
How Does it Work?
AccuMast works by accelerating and simplifying the process of mastitis detection.
The key distinctions between AccuMast and traditional culturing are:
- You test for different groups of pathogens on a single plate as opposed to several different ones
- You will be able to obtain a result withing 16 hours and not 24
- The identification of bacterial species, by colour changes in milk samples, doesn’t require further sub culturing
AccuMast plates are not only able to classify pathogens as gram positive or negative, but additionally identify specific bacterial pathogen species.
The correct identification of these is made possible by the chromogenic media, which enables bacterial cultures to grow in a characteristic colour.
This facilitates a quick visual identification of those species responsible for a mastitis incident.
To complete a test on raw milk using AccuMast you must create a culture:
- Collect a sample in a sterile container
- Make sure you mix it thoroughly by inverting the container
- Dip a sterile swab into the sample
- Smear the swab into each of the three sections of the AccuMast plate
- Put the lid on the plate and store it in an incubator, with the lid side down, at a temperature of 37°C
- Check the plate after 16 hours
The three AccuMast sections each diagnose within three broad categories:
Within each of these, different colours will indicate the presence of different pathogens in the sample.
For example, a pink reading in the Staphylococcus section indicates the presence of staphylococcus aureus.
AccuMast is designed to be easy to use in a farm environment, and its colour-matched results provide a clear, accurate diagnosis of multiple pathogens associated with mastitis.
How Accurate is AccuMast?
Various research supports the effectiveness of AccuMast in diagnosing mastitis, and its improved accuracy.
A 2016 study from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, involved the collection and processing of 538 milk samples on farm, using AccuMast.
The study also cultured the same samples in a laboratory setting, using standard mastitis detection techniques.
The researchers then examined a subset of 214 samples, looking at the bacterial RNA (ribonucleic acid).
From these two studies, the researchers were able to compare results between the standard detection techniques and the AccuMast culture system.
They compared results for:
- Positive and negative predictive values
They found that for identifying mastitis pathogens, AccuMast gave an overall sensitivity of 82.3 per cent and a specificity of 89.9 per cent.
The individual results for identifying gram-negative bacteria, staphylococcus and streptococcus were 90 per cent accurate.
Is AccuMast the Best in Its Class?
What are the results when comparing AccuMast with other on-farm mastitis identification methods?
Another research study, this time from the University of Illinois in 2018, evaluated four on-farm culture methods for the identification of pathogens that cause mastitis.
One of these methods was AccuMast.
This was the first study to compare on-farm culture systems for accuracy when identifying specific pathogens.
Four on-farm systems and two laboratories cultured 299 milk samples taken from two dairy herds.
The results showed that AccuMast had the highest accuracy overall:
- 6% accuracy
- 6% sensitivity
- 5% specificity
- 80% positive predictive values
- 2% negative predictive values
The study also demonstrated that AccuMast was the only on-farm system that was capable of detecting staphylococcus aureus.
What are the Benefits of AccuMast for Mastitis Testing?
Advanced and accurate on-farm testing can help improve the diagnosis of mastitis in cattle.
This, in turn, can minimise economic losses to farms, and safeguard public health, while improving the management of dairy herds.
Using AccuMast mastitis testing kits, farmers can identify pathogens that cause infection before quickly deciding upon the best course of treatment.
The system is fast, and it is easy to use.
Based on a colour system, the results are clear to interpret, and provide a quick diagnosis within 16 hours of testing raw milk samples.
It is a basic, three-stage process:
- Take the sample
- Incubate it
- Look at the results
AccuMast will test for the major treatable mastitis pathogens, including staphylococcus aureus.
Research confirms its effectiveness as the leading on-farm culture method for diagnosing mastitis infections.
Using it, farmers can:
- Identify causes of mastitis correctly
- Gain rapid access to critical diagnostic information
- Make decisions about treatment, selective therapy and antibiotic use
Mastitis can be a costly condition, but AccuMast can help protect herds against its spread, and give farmers the information that they need to take the appropriate measures to both contain and combat it.