Mastitis in Dairy Animals in India - Costly & Complex Challenge


Mastitis – After FMD, mastitis may be the second most important disease in dairy cattle and buffaloes in India on account of huge economic losses.

Relatively lower spends on farm hygiene, lack of effective dry-cow management therapies, fat content rather than Somatic Cell Count as a criteria for milk prices, extensive but sub-optimal usage of antibiotics and poor adherence to withdrawal periods only complicate and compound the challenge of Mastitis in India.

Economic Losses due to Mastitis

Of the few published studies quantifying losses on account of Mastitis – one of the earlier studies (Dua et. al 2001) pegs the overall burden of Mastitis in excess of USD 1 Billion (INR 60,532.10 Million; at fixed exchange rate of 1 USD = INR 60) annually.

Since the study is from 2001 – long 14 years ago - the losses’ figure would be substantially higher if we were to consider only the rate of growth in dairy farming in India. That these losses are primarily on account of clinical mastitis and with a prevalence rate of ~46.8% for sub-clinical mastitis, the economic losses could only be multiple folds of the reported figures.

In yet another published report – which quantified the economic losses due to sub-clinical mastitis – the loss per animal was estimated to be INR 1,390 (equivalent to USD 23 per animal at an exchange rate of 1 USD = INR 60). 49% of this loss per animal was on account of loss of value from milk production and 37% on account of veterinary medicines expenses.

Though both these studies do take into account – medication costs – but none of these have quantified the losses on account of potential milk discards to comply with withdrawal periods, as is the case in developed world.

Lack of Regulation Impeding Mastitis Control

Virtually non-existent effective monitoring at field level and no stringent regulation on mandatory discard of milk from mastitic animals ensures that:

  • Losses due to mastitis remain grossly under-reported but more importantly

  • Authorities, Vets and Dairy farmers remain “obsessed” with treating mastitis rather than preventing because there are enough buyers of the milk from affected animals / quarters

There is thus no effective deterrent in place neither a knowledge led support and early diagnostic mechanisms to ensure a move towards prevention of mastitis in dairy animals (barring large commercial dairy farms). Hence we keep on treating even chronic cases as well

Inexpensive & Poorly Regulated Antibiotics to Blame For

The low cost manufacturing model which at times is the strength of local pharmaceutical industry is partly to blame for turning the conventional wisdom over its head – “its actually cheaper in India to treat for mastitis than to prevent” as explained below:

  • Virtually inexpensive and unregulated, over the counter easy availability of antibiotics and NSAIDs only encourage rampant usage for treatment purposes (a 30 ml bottle of Meloxicam is available at less than USD 1) often directly by the dairy farmers without even the involvement, recommendation and intervention of a qualified Vet

  • Another important issue is relatively poor quality formulations of antibiotics and NSAIDs on sale in the local market which only end up in speeding the process of development of resistance

  • Yet another important aspect is the lack of full compliance with the recommended dosage and duration of usage schedules

  • Hand milking, poor spending / cost savings on farm hygiene as well as farm workers’ hygiene only add fuel to the raging fire

Movement towards Food Safety

Recent focus on food safety and consumer activism if and when extended to milk and milk products could help bring in required focus on prevention of this economically important disease.

For the records, a few companies in the past have tried introducing mastitis vaccines as well as dry cow therapies, however, in view of overwhelming infection pressures and mixed infections of varied etiology have ensured repeat failures of vaccines. Lack of awareness and higher costs associated with dry cow therapies have affected their adoption.

Mastitis remains an opportunity and a whodunit to crack in India and it’s a matter of time for smarter companies to put pieces together and gain from an opportunity going abegging.

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