One of the banes of a dairy farmer’s life is the painful infection of a cow’s udder known as mastitis. The bacterially induced condition can generally be cured with antibiotics. However, in order to prevent humans from becoming antibiotic-resistant, Canadian regulations demand that all milk be antibiotic-free. This means milk from treated cattle must be discarded for days after treatment.
What is particularly galling to farmers is that in some cases, the mastitis can clear up without antibiotics. Enter the Mastitis Treatment Decision System. Growing out of research by University of Prince Edward Island veterinarian Greg Keefe, the technology allows farmers to differentiate mastitis that requires antibiotics from infections that will go away naturally.
The payoff looks to be immediate and significant. A study of 54 herds across Canada found that farmers using the system cut their antibiotic use by 36 percent.