SRUC calls on dairy farmers to help with disease study

Farmers are being asked to help with a project researching the prevalence of an infectious condition in Scottish dairy herds. 

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) originally put out the call for dairy farmers to get involved in the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) study in February, but the study is now set to resume following a hiatus during lockdown.

M. bovis is an infectious condition that can cause a range of symptoms in dairy cattle including pneumonia and middle ear disease in calves, and lameness and mastitis in adult cattle.  

Infections are often longstanding and difficult to treat as the most commonly used antibiotics are ineffective against the bacteria. Some infected cattle show no sign of disease. These individuals will remain in the herd and act as a continuous source of infection to the rest of the herd.  

Additionally, clinically diseased animals who recover may become carriers of M. bovis and are also a source of infection within the herd.

Infections with M. bovis can result in lower milk production, reduced milk quality, poor growth of calves, abortions and infertility.  

M. bovis is spread via direct contact, the environment (i.e. in the milking parlour, feed buckets and teats, bedding), milk, colostrum and semen.  Operating a closed-herd policy significantly reduces the likelihood of introducing M. bovis to the herd.  

In general, best-practice cleaning and disinfection of calf feeding equipment and of the milking parlour as well as pasteurising cows’ milk and colostrum limits the risk of transmission within the herd.

Project lead Jessica Ireland-Hughes, from SRUC Veterinary Services, said: “We’ve been working behind the scenes to enable us to start the project once restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so. The study will hugely benefit the industry as it will help us gain a better understanding of what farms are more or less at risk from M. bovis and the reasons why.”

Participating farms will be asked to submit four quarterly bulk tank milk samples over the course of a year to be tested for the presence of M. bovis and antibodies. They will also be asked to complete a short questionnaire on general herd management practices.

Farms already signed up to the project should receive further information in the coming weeks.

Dairy farmers in Scotland who are interested in the project should email mycoplasmabovis@sruc.ac.uk or text 07785 382 371.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.