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Food-Producing Animals

Success stories

The animal health industry plays a key role in livestock protection as a provider of tools to help prevent, control and manage animal diseases affecting Europe’s farming community. Thanks to these tools (vaccines and medicines) Europe has been successful in managing animal diseases such as salmonella, bluetongue or foot and mouth disease which just years ago posed serious threats to animal health, food safety and public health.

The industry remains acutely aware of future critical challenges however and strives to continue developing advanced solutions that protect both animal and human health. Below you will find links to a number of fact sheets outlining some of the successes experienced thanks to animal health products.

Bovine Mastitis

The availability and the success of mastitis treatment has had a positive impact on the wellfare of cows as well as their milk quality

Milk and dairy products are essential sources of food for the majority of the global population and global demand keeps growing. To keep pace with this growing demand, to maintain high levels of animal health and welfare and quality of milk and dairy products, and to keep dairy farming profitable, the animal health industry has developed products to treat bovine mastitis, a disease with a substantial negative impact on these important requirements.


Mastitis is the inflammatory reaction after an intra-mammary infection (IMI), caused by bacteria invading the mammary gland via the teat orifice. Mastitis manifests itself in two forms:

  • subclinical mastitis, without visual symptoms
  • clinical mastitis, with local symptoms in the udder, like swelling, heat, redness, hardness or pain, and/or systemic symptoms

A wide range of bacteria can cause mastitis. Among the most common are Streptococcus uberis, Streptococcus dyslactiae and Streptococcus agalactiae, but also pathogens with direct relevance for human health like Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli can cause mastitis.

Societal impact

Mastitis is one of the most common and detrimental diseases cows can have. The symptoms vary from very mild for subclinical mastitis, to moderate for clinical mastitis and to very severe/fatal for acute clinical mastitis. Studies on mastitis estimate the prevalence of clinical mastitis to be between 47-71% on an annual cow basis. On average the prevalence of subclinical mastitis is 3–4% of the udder quarters on a farm.

Somatic cell counts (SCC) have long been used as a way of measuring milk quality. Cells in milk occur naturally and the count in milk from a healthy udder of a cow should be less than 100,000 cells per ml. The number of somatic cells increases in response to infections by pathogenic bacteria causing mastitis. The challenge for farmers and veterinarians is to notice (subclinical) mastitis as quickly and adequately as possible, thereby reducing the impact on animal health and welfare.

• Economic impact

According to K. Huijps et al. total economic losses (clinical and subclinical cases) varied from €114/cow per year on a farm with a Bulk Tank Somatic Cell Count (BTSCC) <100,000 cells/ml to €182/cow per year on a farm with a BTSCC >400,000 cells/ml. Production losses accounted for 36% of the economic losses of clinical mastitis, accounted for 100% for subclinical mastitis, and for 71% of the total economic losses for mastitis. Culling of cows with mastitis was the other factor accounting for a large part of the total economic losses (16%).

• Quality of milk and dairy products

Mastitis may lead to abnormalities in milk, e.g. watery appearance, flakes, clots, or pus. The dairy industry pays a premium for milk with low SSCs. EU regulation EC/853/2004 lays down specific hygiene rules for food stuffs and requires SSC for raw milk to be below specified limits. 

Prevention, control and treatment

Mastitis prevention starts with proper milking hygiene and adequate and well maintained milking equipment.

Controlling the infection is improved through proper milking hygiene and good milking equipment as well. Additionally, infection control also includes monitoring and record-keeping as well as culling of chronically-infected cows.

Traditionally treatment options for mastitis have been limited to antibiotics, which are used to treat clinical and subclinical mastitis and to prevent infection with mastitis pathogens during the dry period, a major risk-period for infection. For decades the animal health industry has made significant investments in mastitis vaccine R&D, but the development of adequate vaccines is impeded by the wide variety of mastitis pathogens and the ability of the cow to develop and maintain a life-long immunity against these pathogens. Recently a vaccine to prevent mastitis has become available; other vaccines are still in development. Field experience needs to be gathered to qualify and quantify the contribution of vaccines to mastitis control in general.

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