Evaluation (pilot study) of a new technological approach to improving the detection of sub-clinical mastitis in cows and an adjunct to the SCC. 




  1. Conrad Ferris PhD, Head of Dairy Research at AFBI Hillsborough.Afbi, Hillsbourgh (CF)

  2. Stephen Crooks, Senior Scientist, Afbi, NI. (SC)

  3. Martin Mulholland, Senior Dairying Technologist, CAFRE, Greenmount Campus. NI (MM)

  4. Fiona Ferguson PhD, Senior Food Technologist, Depart. Agriculture and Rural Development, NI. (FF)

  5. Philip Turkington, Associate Professor, BSc. MSC, PhD. (PT)

  6. Roisin Lagan, Senior Food Technologist, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, NI. (RL)

  7. Dermot Mackie, Veterinarian. MVB, PhD, MRCVS (DM)




While the somatic cell (SCC) is considered to be the “standard technology” in the detection of sub-clinical mastitis, research by (PT) in humans, has shown counting the number of white blood cells in a biological fluid of subjects with bacterial infection, is a very poor way of detecting low levels or early stage infection,, i.e. subclinical infection.  (PT) concluded it is better to measure the “products” of white blood cells.  These products are called “enzymes”.  PT has successfully completed numerous studies in the human model and has confirmed the scientific premise, i.e. the number of white blood cells, does not always correlate with the presumed severity of bacterial infection therefore we could be miss detecting the underlying infection.  The consequence being, the infection takes hold and is more severe. In simple terms, the change in SCC may be too late.




This study asks a simple question i.e. does the somatic cell in milk correlate with enzyme level in milk or are there discrepancies.   Based on our knowledge of the human model, it would seem likely.   If this is the case then measuring the proteinase level in milk could be advantageous to the farming community because (1) the proteinase level is more sensitive to early bacterial infection (2) early detection makes it easier for the veterinarians to treat the infection (3) the levels of proteinase drop quickly and could allow the cow to be returned to the herd more quickly (4) lower degrees of infection and by inference less enzyme in the milk should lead to better quality milk.   




In addition to the benefits described above the enzyme level in each quarter could be determined using a device a “pregnancy test like device”.   In the present system a milk sample is taken from each quarter, “mixed” and sent to a laboratory.  But the sample is a mix of quarters, is not teat specific and it takes time to get the result back to the farmer.   The new device overcomes these problems.  In simple terms the farmer adds a drop of milk from each quarter and thereby gets a result on each quarter there and then. Any quarter that comes up positive can be treated there and then, more selective.  This test can be repeated at any time with out the need for counting and a laboratory.   If the infection is cleared then the cow could be returned to the herd sooner than before.  The farmer benefits accordingly.








The ultimate goal is to develop and introduce this technology in Northern Ireland as a 21st century approach to managing mastitis.








  1. Determine the SCC in two herds and the proteinase level in fresh milk.


  2. See if there is a relationship between the somatic count in milk or are there discrepancies.