Early discovery of mastitis with military technology

Author: Anders Herlin (SLU) - October 17, 2017

It started as a student project, but today it is a full business where high tech meets the needs of dairy farmers helping them to discover mastitis at an early stage. The technology emerged from military Infra-Red camera technology and became a tool to combat the most costly disease in dairy farming, mastitis. The company Agricam AB held recently a farm meeting with customers combined with education on how to best use the technology. CEO Ellinor Eineren was pleased to welcome the participants to Hagelsrum´s farm which is run by the family Birgersson.

With an increasing number of customers, she gets more and more appreciations from customers. Birgersson’s farm include 530 lactating dairy cows and is one of the larger herds in Sweden. Cows are milked in a 2x13 parallel parlour. The mastitis rate before was about 18 %, which was slightly below average in Sweden. They analyzed the udder health situation, before the technique was installed, and what measures had to be taken to lower the incidence and reduce the use of antibiotics. Additionally, as the farm is producing for the local dairy processer (Emåmejeriet), high milk quality standards are essential to keep up confidence in the product to customers. They decided to invest in Agricam. The farmer already sees benefits of the Agricam installation. After using the Agricam system for a year at Hagelsrum, the Birgerssons’ have experienced a significant reduction in the clinical cases of mastitis which are treated, probably a halving or less than previous. The Agricam customers in general report that mastitis is detected at an earlier stage than before installation and seldom fully develops into clinical cases if they use supporting treatment.

Veterinarian Johan Waldner has followed the development of the Agricam technology since 2010. He finds the technology very useful, especially for the larger farms, as there is no practical limits to how many cows that can be monitored. When the system picks out suspected cases, the first thing is to have a SOP, a standard operational procedure, how to respond to the alert! Otherwise, nothing will change! The advice is that a table spoon of liniment cream is massaged onto the udder for 7-8 seconds.  Then follow up the treated cow.  There is some differentiation in the alarm system depending on the severity of the temperature increase and if the mastitis is acute or chronic. Exactly which actions should be taken in each situation is under further development of the system. Herds with robotic milking use automatic spray with liniment and even this seems to be beneficial. Overall, Johan Waldner estimates that cases of mastitis is halved on the farms with Agricam system

Several farmers that attended the meeting were pleased to hear about new methods that will help them to monitor a large number of animal and they really appreciated the early alarm and detection. They see labour savings and lowering of antibiotic use as the two major beneficial effect of using Agricam.

The new generation on the farm, Hanna Birgersson, recently educated from Swedish University of Agricultural Science, SLU said: “We learned about new technologies on farms in a course that I took, and I was convinced that technologies, such as Agricam, are helpful  and I saw the potential to have a more structured approach to handle mastitis and hopefully lower the number of veterinary treatments. We see the results already.”