Novel mastitis detection technology is one year closer to reality

A CIEL-partnered project that aims to help reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance and increase productivity on dairy farms has had a successful first year.

The project titled ‘RapiPath: Connecting rapid diagnostic testing with the wider dairy supply chain for improved milk yields, disease surveillance and product assurance’ is funded by Innovate UK’s first wave of Transforming Food Production competition as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. RapiPath aims to:

  • Expand the impact of an existing diagnostic testing platform, previously developed by members of the project consortium
  • Create new targeted modules relevant for the dairy industry – in particular bovine mastitis and antimicrobial resistance genes
  • Develop a novel hardware and software solution to collate and share diagnostic results, to improve animal health and welfare, farm productivity through disease reduction and traceability of food

The RapiPath project is led by livestock health and welfare specialists RAFT Solutions Ltd, a veterinary-led research and development, advanced breeding, food futures/sustainability consultancy and training company based in Ripon, North Yorkshire.  Project partners include leaders in mastitis research, with an established milk quality laboratory, Quality Milk Management Services (QMMS); Fera Science Ltd, providers of innovative and world-class science in sustainable agriculture; OptiSense, designers and manufacturers of optical sensor systems and analytical instruments for environmental monitoring, plant health and food safety; and CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) the UK’s livestock agri-tech innovation centre.

Mastitis has been highlighted as one of the areas of highest antibiotic usage in dairy cattle and is reported to cost the UK dairy industry ~£40m/annum.  The use of diagnostics is widely recognised as a powerful tool for improving animal health as well as food hygiene and safety, with a wide variety of diagnostic tests available using a variety of biochemical and physical techniques. However, a common challenge with most diagnostics tools used in agriculture and veterinary medicine is a lack of ability to interface with the entire supply chain, without considerable efforts from the veterinary surgeon or farmer. As a result, there are massive inefficiencies in logistics, increased wastage and there is a lack of evidence for policy making in the dairy industry.

“By developing a solution to collate and share diagnostic results, it is hoped that animal health and welfare will be improved and protected, farm productivity maximised through disease and waste reduction and this precision technology approach will therefore support greater sustainability in dairy production”

Jonathan Statham, CEO, RAFT Solutions

To date the project team has been busy developing the diagnostic assays and sample processing protocol.  The project team have ensured that end-users are continuing to be consulted throughout to ensure the system is fit for purpose and user-friendly. Validation in the later stages of the project will include testing in the field with both veterinary surgeons and farmers to ensure that both the science and delivery are robust and fit for purpose.