Because of increasing bulk milk somatic cell counts and continuous clinical mastitis problems in a substantial number of herds, a national mastitis control program was started in 2005 to improve udder health in the Netherlands. The program started with founding the Dutch Udder Health Centre (UGCN), which had the task to coordinate the program. The program consisted of 2 parts: a research part and a knowledge-transfer part, which were integrated as much as possible. The knowledge-transfer part comprised 2 communication strategies: a central and a peripheral approach. The central approach was based on educating farmers using comprehensive science-based and rational argumentation about mastitis prevention and included on-farm study group meetings. Comprehensive education materials were developed for farmers that were internally motivated to improve udder health. In the peripheral approach it was tried to motivate farmers to implement certain management measures using nontechnical arguments. Mass media campaigns were used that focused on one single aspect of mastitis prevention. These communication strategies, as well as an integrated approach between various stakeholders and different scientific disciplines were used to reach as many farmers as possible. It should be noted that, because this intervention took place at a national level, no control group was available, as it would be impossible to isolate farmers from all forms of communication for 5 years. Based on several studies executed during and after the program, however, the results suggest that udder health seemed to have improved on a national level during the course of the program from 2005 to 2010. Within a cohort of dairy herds monitored during the program, the prevalence of subclinical mastitis did not change significantly (23.0 in 2004 vs. 22.2 in 2009). The incidence rate of clinical mastitis, however, decreased significantly, from 33.5 to 28.1 quarter cases per 100 cow years at risk. The most important elements of the farmers' mindset toward mastitis control also changed favorably. The simulated costs of mastitis per farm were reduced compared with a situation in which the mastitis would not have changed, with € 400 per year. When this amount is extrapolated to all Dutch farms, the sector as a whole reduced the total costs of mastitis by € 8 million per year. It is difficult to assign the improved udder health completely to the efforts of the program due to the lack of a control group. Nevertheless, investing € 8 million by the Dutch dairy industry in a 5-yr national mastitis control program likely improved udder health and seemed to pay for itself financially.
- dairy herds
- milk quality