Quality Milk App
“Quality Milk App” is a precision agriculture, on-line, monitoring software tool for dairy producers, veterinary consultants and dairy associations, contributing to the improvement of the quality of bovine milk, through: 1. Utilization of a database of herd health parameters 2. Implementation of precision agriculture technology aiming to improve the efficacy of management practices, contributing to lower somatic cell count in raw milk and reduced/selective use of antibiotics against bovine mastitis 3. Application of sustainable strategies to prevent bovine mastitis and improve animal welfare The “Quality Milk App” concept’s development utilizes processing and visualization information technology. Summarizing, the monitoring begins from the processing and transformation of regularly collected raw data from individual cow milk samples, the product of which feeds an online database server where the domain logic is applied. The system communicates comprehensive pieces of information to the end-users delivered as evaluation reports and notifications via the web or mobile-based version of the app.
Udder Health Monitoring: A field of growing interest for dairy producers, consumers and public health. Udder health status of dairy cows is related to their productivity and welfare. Mastitis (clinical and/or subclinical) is one of the most frequent diseases of dairy cows and represents one of the costliest diseases in dairy. Mastitis costs are both direct (treatment costs, veterinary services costs, discarded milk) and indirect -often ignored- such as lower milk yield, labor time, increase of culling rate, but most importantly, increase of somatic cell count in raw milk, leading to lower milk quality and financial penalties for the dairy producer. Finally, the broad use of antibiotics in the absence of well-organized preventive strategies, leads to the increase of antibiotic residues in the produced milk and the transfer of antibiotic resistance from animal to human.
Somatic Cell Count: Transforming raw data from milk samples to an innovative monitoring tool for the improvement of herd health and milk quality. Somatic cells take part in the udder defense mechanisms and their presence in milk samples reflects the inflammatory response to an infection of the udder (mastitis). Somatic cell count (SCC) is a valuable component of monitoring programs. With some care, SCC can be used as a proxy for measuring infection (mastitis) and milk quality at cow, herd and population level (Schukken et al., 2003). Minimizing mastitis and consistently producing high quality milk is a requirement for dairy farmers who wish to be competitive in the global marketplace. Reducing SCC in the bulk tank milk is based on the adoption of best management practices based on prevention, which minimize development of new infections. Thus, regular monitoring of individual cow somatic cell count is an important tool that can be used by farmers and their consultants to develop and implement annual udder health plans and improve milk quality (Ruegg and Pantoja, 2013).
Finally, effective udder health monitoring is important to go beyond just recording the somatic cell count data. There is a growing need for appropriate software development, able to utilize the udder health parameters database (such as somatic cell count), in order to analyse the data, evaluate mastitis and provide useful results, important tables and figures. This software will help dairy producers and veterinary consultants make the appropriate risk assessment, set short-term and long-term goals and implement specific prevention strategies. Furthermore, it could also be a useful monitoring tool in a mastitis control programs at population/national level, aiming to minimize bovine mastitis, reduce the use of antibiotics in the context of preventive strategies and improve the quality of milk.
There are three main advantages for the proposed technology:
1. Milk Quality: In bulk tank milk, the somatic cell count values are routinely used to define the national and international regulatory standards that govern hygienic milk production. “Healthy Milk App” is a software tool aiding dairy producers and their consultants to implement sustainable preventive strategies, in order to reduce somatic cell count in bovine milk and the prevalence of mastitis within the herd, improve herd health and the quality of produced milk.
2. Animal Welfare: Clinical mastitis may be a severe and painful disease that causes distress to the animal and subclinical mastitis has been related with higher chances of clinical mastitis occurrence (Rupp et al., 2000; Schukken et al., 2003). Furthermore, subclinical mastitis has been related to higher chances of premature culling (De Vliegher et al., 2005). “Healthy Milk App” could be a vital tool for the implementation of preventive strategies, personalized according to an individual farm’s challenges and needs, aiming to effectively reduce mastitis prevalence in a dairy herd and achieve a higher level of animal welfare
3. Public Health - The use of Antibiotics & Antimicrobial Resistance: Approximately 80% of antibiotic residues in milk can be traced back to mastitis treatments, either during lactation or during the dry period. Development of antimicrobial resistance is considered to be one of the major public health threats (Schukken et al., 2003; Mevius et al., 2005). Periodical and consistent mastitis monitoring and application of sustainable preventive strategies could lead to an important reduction of antibiotics use for mastitis treatment (up to 50%)
Stage of development
Current Status: Drawing upon the referenced research work and using individual cow milk sample recordings, our development activities have been focused on creating and testing a prototype version of the “Quality Milk App” incorporating the mastitis monitoring parameters and evaluation rules.
Development Plan: The scope of next development iterations is twofold. Firstly, to integrate and test “Quality Milk App” backend prototype with a functional herd-level recording system and establish an online database periodically updated. On this end, we anticipate further solutions and components to be integrated into our modular and flexible server-side infrastructure without much effort. Secondly, towards the final app, the active engagement with interested end-users in pilot phase will lead to a sequent development phase during which we will upgrade the app’s functionality and interface features and fine-tune the user experience.
Challenge and needs
- According to the author’s latest epidemiological research in Greece (Themistokleous et al., 2019), there is strong evidence of poor udder health among dairy herds, caused by the high prevalence of (subclinical) mastitis.
- It has also been found (Italy) that the use of SCC as a decisive criterion for selective (instead of blanket) dry cow therapy, is useful to manage herd health in an efficient and sustainable way, decreasing the use of antimicrobials without increasing the risk of infection.
- The future development activities of the research team will focus on extending the prototype version of the “Quality Milk App” incorporating the mastitis monitoring parameters and evaluation rules.
- Twofold development scope: Firstly, the integration and testing of the “Quality Milk App” backend prototype with a functional herd-level recording system, along with the setup of an online database. Secondly, the subsequent upgrade of our web/mobile app’s frontend functionality and features, by taking advantage of active involvement and feedback of interested end-users during the pilot phase.
- The involvement of a number of dairy producers and the required milk-data, as well as the utilization of a database of raw data deriving from periodical individual-cow milk sampling.
A prior art search has been planned.
Potential markets and targets
Potential targets of the proposed concept are either individual dairy businessmen (producers) or associations of dairy producers, maintaining a database derived from a milk sampling system, as well as dairy industries.
“Quality Milk App”, is an under-development precision agriculture software tool that could interest individual dairy businessmen (producers), dairy producers’ associations or even dairy industries. The only essential condition for a potential partner is to obtain a database of raw data deriving from periodical individual-cow milk sampling (e.g. SCC on a monthly basis or more frequent).