By international standards, Ireland is a relatively small dairy producer. However, the industry plays a critical role to the national economy, accounting for approximately 3% of national gross domestic product. This paper presents insights into udder health and intramammary antibiotic usage on Irish dairy farms during 2003-2010, based on data from several sources. Three data sources were used, including data on milk recording data, intramammary antibiotic sales and animal health assessment. The milk recording data included a single unadjusted herd-level somatic cell count (SCC) value for each herd at each milk recording, being the arithmetic mean of cow-level SCC of each cow at that recording, weighted by cow-level yield. These data were used to calculate the percentage of herds each month where the unadjusted herd SCC exceeded 200,000 and 400,000 cells/mL. Two logistic generalised estimating-equations (GEE) models were developed, the outcome variable being either the probability that the monthly SCC of a herd was greater than 400,000 cells/mL or less than or equal to 200,000 cells/mL. Spring herds had a lower probability of a high SCC (> 400,000 cells/mL) during February to October compared to non-Spring herds but a higher probability between November to January. The odds of a high SCC were greater in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010 but less in 2007 and 2008 compared to 2004. Smaller herds had higher odds of having a high SCC compared to larger herds. We present the number of intramammary tubes and the quantity of active substance (kg) sold annually in Ireland during 2003-2010. We infer an incidence of clinical mastitis of 54.0 cases per 100 cow-years at risk, assuming 4 tubes per treatment regime, one affected quarter per cow, tubes restricted to clinical cases only and 100% of treated cases considered new cases, based on data collected on sales of in-lactation intra-mammary antibiotics. With differing assumptions, this estimate varied between 25.8 and 77.0 cases per 100 cow-years at risk. Using data on sales of dry cow therapy intra-mammary antibiotics, we also infer that most Irish dairy farmers use blanket dry cow therapy. It is important that Ireland has an objective understanding of current levels of udder health, to facilitate benchmarking and improvement into the future. Udder health is a concern on a number of Irish dairy farms. High SCC results were present throughout the year, but more marked towards the start and end of each milking season. Animal Health Ireland recently commenced a major national programme, CellCheck, in collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, to support national SCC improvement. In this paper, relevant European and national legislation is also reviewed.
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