The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has awarded a new grant to the Quality Milk Production Services Lab in Canton, NY, to continue the investigation it began in 2014 into how lesser-known mastitis-causing organisms are impacting dairy herds in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

The NNYADP has posted the results of the first year of the project here.

‘This research is pinpointing the lesser-known mastitis-causing organisms in Northern New York dairy herds and beginning to help us understand just how they impact regional farms in terms of both cow health and economic impact,’ said project leader Jessica C. Scillieri Smith, D.V.M., with the Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center Northern New York Regional Laboratory at Canton, NY.

“By more precisely identifying the pathogens that cause mastitis, we will help farmers more directly target treatment with fewer chronically-infected cows, potentially less antibiotic use and cost, and less discarded milk,” Smith added.

In the first year of the project, the Canton lab tested 8,361 milk samples from 143 dairy farms and found infections caused by several species that heretofore have not been considered significant pathogens in bovine mastitis.

These lesser-known species have been previously grouped together as ‘other’ Streptococcal species.

‘The Lactococcus genus appears to be a potentially significant mastitis-causing pathogen on some farms. The Lactococcus lactis species was identified in milk samples from 19 of 140 farms diagnosed with Strep-based mastitis, and represented over 23 percent of nearly 500 ‘other Streptoccocus’ infections diagnosed at the Quality Milk Production Services Lab in Canton, and by Countryside Veterinary Clinic in Lowville, NY,” Smith noted.

For some farms, the Lactococcus genus was identified as the cause of more than 50 percent of mastitis cases. The research team, which included cooperating farmers across the Northern New York region, noted a significant difference in the risk of a cow permanently leaving the milking herd based on the specific genus of the mastitis-causing organism.

With the new funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, the research team will more closely study five farms with the higher incidences of the Lactococcus infections.

Since Lactococcus is not currently identified using standard microbiology techniques, the new project empowers Quality Milk Production Services to develop new testing practices that will identify the lesser-known pathogens to help veterinarians and farmers make more informed and targeted management decisions.

Smith will share the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Other Streptococcal Mastitis Pathogens project first-year results at the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association meeting in June, at the National Mastitis Council Regional Meeting in Syracuse in July, and at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners Conference in New Orleans in September.