The first whole UK approach to controlling mastitis began in the 1960s. Research done by the National Institute for Research in Dairying at the University of Reading resulted in the 5 point plan, which was aimed at the control of contagious mastitis spread between cows during milking.
Uptake of the plan by dairy farmers all over the country resulted in huge progress in the control of clinical and subclinical mastitis, especially in the control of contagious mastitis. Incidence rates across the country fell from more than 150 cases per 100 cows per year in some herds to 40 cases per 100 cows per year between 1967 and 1982. National average bulk milk somatic cell counts also dropped from over 600,000 cells/ml to 400,000 cells/ml.
Since then, several small studies have been done to determine the national rates of clinical mastitis. The rates of clinical mastitis were not much different from 15-20 years earlier; however, the pathogens that were causing mastitis were significantly different.
There had been a step away from contagious pathogens, which are adapted to survive in the cow’s udder, to environmental pathogens, which are adapted to survive in the environment. This increased awareness and importance of environmental pathogens caused Defra to add a 6th point to the previously decided 5 point plan: control of the cow’s environment.
Unfortunately, this plan did not go into detail as to how the environment could be managed more effectively and did not appreciate the complexities of managing environmental mastitis.
More recent work carried out in 2004 - 2005 showed a higher incidence of clinical mastitis in UK herds than was previously thought, with some farms reporting over 100 cases per 100 cows per year. The bacteria present in these herds were mainly Streptococcus uberis and Escherichia coli accounting for 23.5% and 19.8% of cases, respectively, again confirming a shift towards environmental causes.
This demonstrated the need for a structured plan that considered all the risk factors in controlling mastitis to be developed.
DairyCo funded research to develop the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan in 2004 on herds with an increased incidence of clinical mastitis. Initial results proved that a structured approach to mastitis control, such as the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan, could have a big impact on clinical mastitis incidence on farm.
The plan was rolled out nationally in 2009. By 2013, it was estimated that between 2000-2500 herds had completed a full plan or a component of the DairyCo Mastitis Control Plan.