Our team has the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Thai culture and veterinary medicine for 2 weeks at the Khon Kaen Veterinary school. All 6 of us are participating in different rotations, including small animal internal medicine, surgery and bovine health. We (John and Kate) are taking part in the bovine rotation that focuses on mastitis in dairy cows and milk quality control this week.
From Left to Right: John, Mr. Somchit, Kate, Ninh (Vietnamese international student), Dr. Chaiyapas
Yesterday, following a short meeting with the dean of the school, we joined the rotation. In the morning, we watched a Canadian film about milk quality and good and bad habits or routines used by farmers in the dairy industry, and how a veterinarian should evaluate farm practices. The professor also talked at length about the afternoon’s agenda, including a visit to a nearby dairy farm where we would be performing various tests and practicing some important veterinary skills.
After a delicious lunch in the school’s beautiful open air cafeteria, we hopped on the bus and travelled to a 45 cow dairy 30 km away, which is owned and run by Mr. and Mrs. Somchit. This farm has 14 milking cows, and we were able to observe the milking process by the husband and wife team. During the milking process, the cows are fed. Three veterinary graduate students who also came along on the farm visit explained to us the components of the feed. We were fascinated to learn that they eat various combinations of regionally specific products and by-products, some of which include pineapple, coconut, rice bran, and rice straw (the primary roughage).
Pineapple by product feed, very sweet
Layered feed, top to bottom: coconut husk, minerals, rice bran, brewers byproduct, coconut byproduct
While the farmers were doing the afternoon milking, the veterinary students performed their tasks. To detect subclinical mastitis, the California Mastitis Test (CMT) was performed by collecting a sample of milk from each quarter of the udder. In a CMT, a paddle is used that separates the samples, a reagent is added, and the degree of gelling rapidly and accurately helps determine somatic cell counts (SCC) in a specific cow. The students also collected milk samples using aseptic technique, practiced scoring body condition, teat end conformation, and overall hygiene of the farm. Meanwhile, we spoke with Dr. Chaiyapas about dairy farming and veterinary medicine in Thailand. We discussed common vaccinations that are given to cattle (including Foot and Mouth disease), common health issues seen in Thai dairy cows such as laminitis due to feeding high concentrate feeds, gastrointestinal diseases, mastitis treatments, and antibiotic resistance.
Thai student collecting milk sample using aseptic technique
CMT results, dark purple gelling quadrant indicates clinical mastitis with a score of 3
Today, the class stayed in the lab to analyze the samples collected from the day before. They determined bacterial load from the bulk tank sample (all the cows) using Standard plate counts. The same technique is used to classify the strain of bacteria found in an individual cow’s mastitis infection. They also did a Methylene Blue Reduction test, which determines if certain types of acid producing bacteria are present in the milk. Lastly, they performed Somatic cell count analysis. The results from these analyses will be later used to help the farmer effectively treat his herd, and the class will make overall recommendations later based on their data and observations.
-John and Kate