Today at the British Mastitis Conference workshop held at the Sixways Stadium in Worcester, I became aware of the regularity of increases in Soamtic Cell Counts (SCC), encountered on numerous dairy farms during the months of British summer time.
Several case studies were presented by those that deliver "Mastitis Control Plans" which analyse and examine both SCC data and clinical mastitis records to diagnose the cause of mastitis for their farmer clients. A reoccurring theme was one of increasing SCC at a time of year when the omega 3 content of pasture is at it's highest. No real explanation was derived as to why this should be the case. On reflection, my thoughts turned to my study of Valorex, a feed compounder in France, during my Nuffield study into antibiotic use in agriculture. This company extrude Linseed to enable better absorption of the Omega 3 fats contained within.
Bleu-Blanc-Coeur is a brand that Valorex communicate the health benefits of increased Omega 3 fats in end products such as cheese, milk and meat to consumers. Farmers get a premium for their livestock or milk outputs if they feed a ration including extruded linseed, and hence influence the quality of the end produce they market. I wasn't in France however to examine the premium achieved in the value chain, I was there to examine the health benefits of manipulating the Omega 3 : Omega 6 ratio through feeding extruded linseed. The work done by Valorex showed that by manipulating the Omega fat ratios, there was also a manipulation of the progesterone : prostaglandin ratio in favour of increased immune response. So, by feeding extruded linseed, and hence increasing the efficacy of immune response, animals are better able to deal with infections.
A similar increase in Omega 3 is witnessed naturally when animals consume spring and early summer pastures rich in Omega 3. Their immune function is known to increase as a result.
A nagging thought that I'll need to further examine is based on this increased immune efficacy at the beginning of summer. Are cow immune responses unable to cope with udder infections until increased Omega 3 rations delivered naturally in spring? Is that why there is an increase in SCC during summer months whilst during the same period clinical mastitis cases in dairy cows measured by those presenting at the conference remain stable? In other words, are the cows udders infected, but the cows can't fight the infection until the increased Omega 3 in their diets allow them to do so? If so, why don't we manipulate Omega 3 favorable diets throughout the year as they do in France?
For Farmers, an European feed manufacturer offer extruded linseed in the UK. I think I'll go and speak to them.