The devil is in the details

Opportunities and pitfalls of providing an in-clinic milk quality laboratory


  • James W. Bennett Northern Valley Dairy Production Medicine Center, Plainview, MN 55964



milk quality, udder health, milk culture, microbiological laboratory, mastitis


Microbial culture of milk for diagnosis of pathogens has been a mainstay of mastitis control for many years. Traditionally services have been provided by outside laboratories or to some degree, by local veterinary clinics. In-clinic laboratories can perform basic microbiological testing of milk and other materials related to udder health. Such services can provide valuable information for mastitis control; however, there are many pitfalls to consider when designing or operating a laboratory. Recently, increased focus on responsible antibiotic use by the dairy industry, dairy veterinarians, and society in general has created a greater need for microbial identification prior to antibiotic treatment. The aim of this article is to describe potential uses of an in-house laboratory while also describing some of the potential problems the veterinary practitioner may face. There are a variety of techniques beyond simple milk culture that can be performed in a clinic laboratory. The information provided may help practitioners provide valuable information and service to dairy producers who wish to improve or maintain udder health.






National Mastitis Council