Shona Phillips, Head Herds Person at Sparsholt College, has been leading the College’s working dairy unit in exciting new research, aiming to reduce the use of antibiotics in farms across the country.

Established by RVC vet Peter Plate and the Innovative Farmers network, the study focuses on the mammary gland infection mastitis. Mastitis is one of the most common infections seen in dairy cows. It can have fatal consequences if left untreated, and accounts for a high proportion of antibiotic use on farms.

In the on-farm study, farmers were able to sample milk through a new rapid culture test to identify which cows showed symptoms of mastitis, and to differentiate those able to recover without further intervention from those needing antibiotic treatment.

There have only been 20 cases of mastitis needing antibiotic use in those herds which are part of the trial since it began in July 2019. The avoidance of antibiotic being routinely administered to each cow presenting with mastitis has significantly reduced the volume of antibiotic thereby lessening the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.

The study has also led to a change in milking routines in order for early symptoms of the infection to be identified. Shona has involved students and staff in the new milking routines, showing them how to look for early signs of mastitis, and the next steps of treatment.

The Innovative Farmers Group invited Shona Phillips to speak at the Oxford Real Farming Conference at the beginning of January. Shona joined a distinguished panel, including organic farmers and vets, to discuss the success of the trial in using real farming solutions to reduce antibiotic use.

Sparsholt College has delivered agricultural programmes since its establishment over 100 years ago and remains at the forefront of land based education and training. With a strong portfolio of current Further Education courses, and Hons degree and Masters programmes through University Centre Sparsholt, Sparsholt is a leading educator with an enviable reputation in this field.

Agriculture students benefit from working with expert lecturers, and the diverse and exciting industry-standard facilities. The 126-hectare working farm on campus includes dairy, sheep, pigs and arable enterprises, as well as a further 134 hectares at a nearby site, giving students access to an excellent range of learning opportunities and a base for research thesis work for those studying for a Degree in Agriculture.

Further details on the trial are available in the Innovative Farmers 2020 Field Lab Journal, and to find out more about our extensive range of courses, join us at our next Open Day on February 1.