National Mastitis Council reiterates commitment to global involvement

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Jim Dickrell, Monticello, Minn, 1999-2000 president of the National Mastitis Council, welcomed more than 380 attendees to the opening session of the 39th annual meeting of the NMC, Feb 14-16 in Atlanta, Ga. He reported that the NMC made great progress during the past year, adopting and implementing vision and mission statements that will establish the NMC as the global leader in the crusade to provide quality milk and dairy products. To achieve that goal, the NMC formed the international advisory group, which has members from nine countries.

The global nature of the NMC also is evident in its membership, which includes people from the United States and 18 other countries. Currently, 15 percent of the members are from countries other than the United States. Furthermore, a number of foreign members are on NMC committees, and numerous presentations at the meeting were given by international speakers.

Two highlights were the election of Dr. Ann Godkin of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, Fergus, Ontario, Canada, as the first non-US member to be elected president of the NMC, for 2000-2001, and the announcement by the National Mastitis Research Foundation of their first research award recipient.

Other successful efforts of the NMC included publication of the revised "Laboratory Handbook on Mastitis." The handbook was released in the summer of 1999. More than 400 copies already have sold. The NMC also hired a publisher in Italy to translate and publish the NMC materials in Italian.

Economics of mastitis

Dr. John Fetrow, University of Minnesota, set the tone for the meeting with his keynote speech, "Mastitis: An economic consideration." He pointed out the frustrations that may be felt by veterinarians and producers when implementing mastitis and milk quality programs, including the fact that financial costs associated with mastitis may not be a major driving force for producers who are considering implementation of such programs.

Despite efforts that have been made during the past 25 years, the prevalence of mastitis in dairy cattle in the United States is approximately the same now, and many of the same pathogens, especially Staphylococcus aureus, are still causing the disease.

Dr. Fetrow said striving for perfection (totally eliminating costs associated with mastitis on a farm) might be an unreal expectation. Veterinarians and other members of the dairy industry must help dairy producers analyze the economic losses attributable to mastitis and identify changes that can be expected to yield a reasonable economic benefit.

Definitions and identifications

One session of the meeting focused on methods of defining and identifying mastitis. Use of tests to detect mastitis in specific cows was contrasted with bacterial culturing of bulk-tank samples and computer analysis of records to identify problems for the entire herd. Record keeping, including requirements that must be met for AMDUCA, was reviewed.

Another session focused on technologic advances in the battle against mastitis. Genetic analyses and DNA fingerprinting techniques, for example, can be used to identify virulent strains of mastitis pathogens, and identification of enterotoxins in S aureus may help investigators understand the mechanism by which those bacteria induce some forms of mastitis.

Milk quality

One statement repeated throughout the meeting was, "Mastitis is a disease of humans that is manifested in dairy cattle." During the final two sessions, several speakers discussed ways to address the human component of mastitis and milk quality.

The importance of proper milking procedures and use of practices (such as proper pre- and postmilking teat dipping) that can reduce the incidence of mastitis-causing organisms were reviewed. Poor training or incorrect use of techniques will result in poor milking performance of cows and increased opportunities for mastitis. Methods for assessing milking and mastitis-prevention techniques and their impact on milking efficiency and milk quality were proposed.

During the final session, the speakers emphasized that dairy producers must perform certain procedures to effectively complete the process of obtaining milk from cows and prevent the introduction of mastitis-causing organisms into the udder.


The annual business meeting included announcement of the winner of the first research award and election of new officers. Outgoing President Dickrell received the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his contributions to the NMC.

Dr. Keith Sterner, Ionia, Mich, announced that the National Mastitis Research Foundation achieved a financial state that enabled presentation of its first competitive research award. Dr. Larry Fox (Washington State University), Dr. Dawn Morin (University of Illinois), Dr. Jerry Roberson (Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine), Dr. Leo Timms (Iowa State University), and Dr. Ron Erskine (Michigan State University) received $5,000 to conduct a study titled "Epidemiology of mastitis caused by environmental streptococci."


Dr. Godkin, incoming NMC president, indicated she intends to help the NMC build on the international success the organization has had. She said the NMC will jointly host the International Mastitis Symposium at the AABP annual meeting, Sept 13-16, 2001, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Godkin also plans to address bulk-tank somatic cell count values. Although the NMC was unsuccessful in 1999 in spearheading an effort to reduce the limit at which bulk-tank SCC would initiate regulatory action against producers in the United States from 750,000 SCC/ml of milk to less than or equal to 400,000 SCC/ml of milk, Dr. Godkin applauded the effort and believes the NMC can build on it. The NMC has formed an SCC Task Force to develop and implement efforts aimed at educating all milk producers and milk processors about the advantages of milk with low SCC. Those educational efforts include an SCC symposium and targeted topics that will be presented at next year's NMC meeting. Furthermore, the NMC Educational Committee is developing presentations and written materials that address SCC and methods of reducing SCC in cows. These materials will be made available to veterinarians seeking to educate dairy clients.

Dr. Godkin said, "The NMC seeks increased membership and contact with practicing veterinarians who have direct influence over the quality of milk produced. The NMC wants to help veterinarians in these endeavors, and will be looking closely at the results of the NMC market research survey [of veterinarians] conducted last year to identify ways to accomplish this objective."

In addition to Dr. Godkin, other officers are Gary Heinrich, Kalamazoo, Mich, first vice president; Steve Nickerson, Homer, La, second vice president; Dr. Paul Rapnicki, St Paul, Minn, secretary; and Dr. Leo Timms, Ames, Iowa, treasurer.