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Mastitis: What is it Costing You?

24 September 2013

Irish farmers have a mastitis costing programme to deliver an objective figure on what somatic cell counts have on farm margins.


Mastitis is considered to be one of the most costly dairy cattle diseases, thus making it highly relevant to dairy farmers. The losses associated with mastitis are often underestimated at farm level as many of the losses are unseen, like reduced milk production and lower herd growth potential.

In New Zealand and the US, mastitis is estimated to cost their respective dairy industries €180 million and €1.3 billion per year. Irish research has demonstrated the impact of mastitis on farm pro?tability (Geary et al., 2012).

This research has been used to develop CostCheck, a farm speci?c cost of mastitis calculator. International research suggests that the single most in?uencing factor in motivating change is demonstrating the cost of the status quo. Therefore estimating the current cost of mastitis on Irish dairy farms is the ?rst practical step in tacking the problem of mastitis in Ireland.

Mastitis CostCheck

The objective of the CostCheck calculator is to allow each dairy farmer to estimate the cost of mastitis on his/her dairy farm, using their own data. This tool was developed by Teagasc Moorepark in consultation with the CellCheck Technical Working Group and was funded through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Research Stimulus Fund. This tool can now be downloaded from the Teagasc and Animal Health Ireland websites (Links provided below).

The CostCheck calculator is a Microsoft Excel based tool which has a user friendly interface. Provided below is an outline of the mastitis CostCheck calculator and how it works.

Complete CostCheck Calculator

On selecting the ‘Complete CostCheck’ calculator the user will see a screen where numerous inputs are required

  • While the yellow cells are pre-populated with estimated values based on the selected SCC categories all values highlighted in yellow can be changed by the user based on their own data.
  • The calculator begins by capturing data on the average milk production per lactation per cow on your farm. The baseline assumption is 5,500 litres, this can be modi?ed by the user.
  • The user then enters the number of cows and heifers they are currently milking (100 in this example). The target number of cows and heifers milking is the same as the current to ensure a like for like comparison.
  • The user then selects the current SCC category of their dairy farm (300-400,000 cells/ml in this example) and the target SCC category i.e. what you would aim to and could achievably reduce the SCC to (100-200,000 cells/ml in this example).
  • Based on the selected SCC category the calculator selects the appropriate milk production loss based on research carried out by Teagasc Moorepark. The user cannot modify this assumption.
  • The calculator will pre-populate the number of cases treated in total across the herd for both the current and target, based on the SCC categories selected. If the user does not agree with the estimated ?gures he/she can change the ?gures based on their own data.
  • The calculator will also pre-populate the number of cows culled due to mastitis for both the current and target, based on the SCC categories selected. If the user does not agree with the estimated ?gures he/she can change them based on their own data.
  • There is also an opportunity to account for cows that might have died due to mastitis in the current
    lactation. The user can also account for any penalties incurred in the current lactation due to SCC
    exceeding 400,000 cells/ml. The baseline assumptions in the model for both these categories is zero;
    however the user can, and should, change these if applicable to them.

  • The milk sales net margin is assumed at 21 cent per litre, based on a milk price of 27 cent per litre less 6 cent for milk related production costs (deducted as the milk is not produced). This can be modi?ed if the user requires.
  • The treatment costs in the calculator are based on a survey carried out with commercial dairy farmers.
  • They account for antibiotics, veterinary costs and treatment practices which will vary across each SCC category. The treatment costs for each SCC category are pre-populated based on research but the user can modify these costs if more farm-speci?c information is available.
  • The cull cow value and heifer replacement costs are pre-populated with €550 and €1,451, respectively.
  • The user can amend these costs where they have more information.
  • More detail is available on all background assumptions by clicking on the ‘Assumptions’ button which is to the right of the cost assumptions in the Complete CostCheck calculator.


The results are split into two sections; Summary Results and Detailed Results. The Summary Result provides an estimate of the gain on net farm pro?t from reducing SCC. The Detailed Results provides a breakdown of the cost components: milk production, treatment, culling and other costs.

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