The National Mastitis Council (NMC) represents a global effort to coordinate all available resources to help the dairy industry control mastitis, improve udder health and enhance milk quality through research, the exchange of information and education.

Organized in 1961, the original mission of NMC was to compile all that was known about mastitis and to develop an effective plan to control the disease. Today, the scope of NMC reaches beyond mastitis into all aspects of quality milk production, encompassing food safety, animal health and animal well-being. NMC’s ultimate goal is to improve the quality of the milk supply and help assure the profitability and sustainability of the dairy industry.

NMC provides a forum for the international exchange of information relating to udder health, milking management, milk quality and milk safety. Through its committees and working groups, NMC develops and publishes educational materials relating to the production of quality milk, establishes guidelines for mastitis control and milking management, monitors changes in technology relating to udder health and milk quality, and holds meetings to provide continuing education opportunities.

Current NMC projects and initiatives
1. Diagnostics: One of NMC’s flagship publications, Laboratory Handbook on Bovine Mastitis, is currently under its third revision and is scheduled to be published in 2014. First published in 1987, this handbook brings uniformity to microbiological procedures for diagnosing bovine mastitis using milk cultures.

Although the use of culture techniques to identify mastitis-causing pathogens in milk has always been considered the “gold standard” for diagnosing intra-mammary infections, routine diagnostic use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques to identify pathogens in milk has become commercially available. Questions related to the use of PCR as a diagnostic method and its application to mastitis field samples are frequently being asked. To help answer these questions, NMC is developing guidelines for the use of PCR in diagnosing intra-mammary infections in dairy cattle. In addition, a panel discussion addressing the use of PCRbased tests in mastitis diagnosis is planned for the NMC 53rd annual meeting slated for Jan. 26-28, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas.

2. Milking systems: Another key NMC publication, Guidelines for Evaluating Vacuum Levels and Air Flow in Milking Systems, underwent its third revision in 2012, incorporating changes in standards for milking machine performance and design. With the increase in operations with robotic milking, a task force has now been assigned to develop guidelines specifically for evaluating automatic milking systems.

Another task force is looking to develop a set of guidelines to help milking machine advisors understand liners —how they function and how to properly set up the milking system to get maximum performance from the liner.

A third machine-related initiative is to develop a set of guidelines to evaluate the function of automatic cluster removers. This project also has a broad goal of developing a set of common terms that will be used across the industry.

3. Teat health: An NMC task force is working to update the “Teat Condition Portfolio,” an educational tool designed to aid in the detection and diagnosis of various teat conditions that may be encountered on the farm. The task force is updating the photos and supporting documents, with the idea of making the teat-condition portfolio available on mobile devices to enhance on-farm use of the tool.

The future
Improving udder health and milk quality have been the goals of NMC for more than 50 years. As NMC moves forward, the essential goals will remain the same; however, increasing focus will be placed on how milk quality contributes to productivity, sustainability, milk product competitiveness and food safety.

Upcoming meetings
NMC will host its 53rd annual meeting, Jan. 26-28, 2014, at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas.

For more information on NMC, visit NMConline.org.