On-farm milk culturing can be a beneficial tool to effectively identify and treat mastitis pathogens. However, on-farm culturing is not for everyone, says Sarah Wagner, DVM, North Dakota State University.

Wagner offers the following tips for veterinarians who have clients interested in on-farm culturing.

  • You must have a person on the farm that has an interest in on-farm culturing. This person must have the time available to culture. Space and equipment must also be available on-farm.
  • An off-farm support person is needed to assist in training and reading the cultures.
  • A written protocol for case selection is needed.
  • A milk sampling protocol is needed.
  • Culture set-up and interpretation protocols are needed.
  • A treatment protocol also needs to be developed.
  • Make sure to develop an element of quality control.

If you decide to try on-farm culturing, keep it simple, advises Wagner. “If you quit you can’t go back, but if you start simple you can always move forward to make it more complicated.”

Wagner also recommends that the on-farm person save the culture plates for review to make sure they are reading and interpreting the cultures correctly. Culture plates can also be taped shut and mailed to a laboratory for confirmation identification.

An alternative to on-farm culturing is for veterinary practices to perform milk cultures for clients at their clinics. Wagner points out that this will be less expensive than a veterinary diagnostic lab for the client, results will be quicker than a lab, culturing does not rely on farm labor, the opportunity to make additional income for the practice exists, a veterinary practice could culture a higher volume of samples from multiple farms, it is an excellent role for a veterinary technician and the cultures could be made more complex to test for mycoplasma.

The following Web sites are useful resources for on-farm culturing: