Acumen detection - Saving farmers thousands with early mastitis detection and ongoing surveillance

Published on Wed, 11/21/2018 - 1:54pm

 Acumen detection - Saving farmers thousands with early mastitis detection and ongoing surveillance 

 Written by Jamie Hutchinson

 Mastitis causes every dairy some economic losses that can be frustrating at the best of times, even more so in trying times in the milk market. Now, a new technology originally conceived to save lives on the battlefield, is making great strides in reducing costs associated with mastitis. Acumen Detection’s on-farm test detects the presence of mastitis-causing pathogens (including mycoplasma, staph, strep and others) in milk samples in less than 3 hours. Armed with knowledge of early-detection, producers can proactively manage mastitis and significantly reduce associated costs. Screening for infectious pathogens on the farm reduces the risk of outbreaks, as disease can be stopped before it spreads. Over time, improved herd health improves milk quality, production and profitability.

Take the case of Ag Oasis who runs four open-lot dairies in Kansas and Oklahoma, with a total of 12,000 milking cows. The dairies have a somatic cell count of 120,000—an impressive statistic for an open-lot operation.
Their success is not due to luck. The team at Ag Oasis takes a very proactive approach to herd health. One example is their contagious mastitis surveillance program. The program initially involved sending bulk tank and string samples to an out-of-state lab for culture, but the team was disappointed with the turn-around time of results. It could take up to three weeks to receive Mycoplasma culture results, during which time all cow movement was halted to prevent the possible spread of disease. The team had growing concerns about the impact of overcrowding on cow health. They wanted to eliminate the stressful conditions that reduced production, delayed breeding, and caused lameness.   
In 2017, Ag Oasis decided to establish their own in-house mastitis testing lab. Rather than sending samples to an out-of-state laboratory once a week, Ag Oasis wanted to test samples in-house on a daily basis. The team selected MasCow Dairy in Stevens County, Kansas as their centralized lab location.
The team, led by consultant Ron Fehn, DVM, considered several testing options. They had two major criteria: the testing must be both fast and simple. It was important for the testing and results to reinforce their simple and straightforward management style. Their goal was to test all fresh and clinical cows—approximately
700 samples a month—for the two major contagious mastitis pathogens in their region: Mycoplasma and Staph aureus. They needed results as soon as possible to prevent the spread of disease and reduce the stressful conditions created while waiting for results.
The team considered tri-plates, but they decided that the system was too complicated for their management style. Tri-plates are designed to guide targeted treatment, an approach that didn’t align with their strategy. Ag Oasis wanted to avoid multiple treatment protocols that could create confusion.
Ag Oasis began by culturing all fresh and clinical cows for Staph aureus. They found the plating process to be a simple task, and they had results in less than a day. After experiencing a high rate of false positive results using the plates, they started looking for a confirmatory test. They settled on coagulase testing, which confirms the presence of Staph aureus by the next day.
In late 2017, Brian Hemann, a partner at Ag Oasis, came across the Acumen Detection on-farm pathogen detection system. He was very interested in receiving Mycoplasma results in less than 3 hours. Instead of waiting weeks for results, they could know a cow’s status before the next milking. Their consultant, Dr. Ron Fehn, contacted Acumen’s midwestern field sales rep, Maggie Faulkner, and arranged for training and support for several employees.

Ag Oasis decided to purchase two Acumen Detection systems to test all fresh heifers and clinical cows for Mycoplasma. An average day in the lab involves testing 48 samples using the Acumen Detection system. They begin by preparing all the samples for testing using the Milk Prep Kit. The entire process is guided by a user-friendly software application that provides step-by-step instructions. Up to sixteen samples can be tested at a time. Lab staff are able to complete other tasks, such as culture plating, while the Acumen tests are in progress. Within three hours, the results are reviewed at the end of the test run, enabling the team to make decisions before the next milking.
While establishing an on-farm lab and implementing a contagious mastitis surveillance program can be a big undertaking, Dr. Fehn says it was worth it. Without a surveillance program, “Three cases could easily become three-hundred.”

Producers and veterinary clinics across the country are finding positive results implementing early detection of mastitis-causing pathogens as a first step in improving herd health.  Once a farm has determined which mastitis pathogens they are dealing with they can address them and reduce their incidence in the future.
Acumen’s Founder and Chief Strategist, Tim Moshier, grew up on and around his grandparent’s and aunt and uncle’s dairy farm. During his 21 years of service in the US Army, Moshier envisioned an early detection system that could save troops’ lives when under chemical or biological attack. After retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel, Moshier spent the next several years and millions of dollars developing the solution Acumen sells to dairy producers and veterinarians today. “Acumen Detection is 100% committed to helping dairy producers and veterinarians improve and maintain the health of their herds and thereby improve the bottom line,” Moshier says. “Our mission is to help those who feed us.”