Animal Health

Enabling A New Mastitis Treatment Paradigm On The Farm

Mastitis affects 1 in every 4 dairy cows every year, and the cost of each case of mastitis can cost upwards of $400.00 per case due to non-saleable milk, decreased milk production, treatment costs, and replacement of the animal. The estimated losses from mastitis across the U.S. is estimated to be as high as $2 billion every year.

At Acumen Detection we are developing an affordable, easy-to-use capability that enables real-time management decisions to control intramammary infections in herds and reduce the use of antibiotics.


This on-farm capability will provide farmers actionable knowledge regarding a mastitis case within a couple of hours, instead of having to wait 1 to 10 days. We are developing this capability in collaboration with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS). This group of internationally recognized experts defines the system’s requirements for us, and guides our system validation process.

This capability will help farmers avoid these problems:

  • Administering antibiotics (antimicrobials) when they are not needed. Greg Keefe and his colleagues at the Maritime Quality Milk program in Prince Edward Island, Canada cites a study that found that in 44% of clinical mastitis cases the cows’ own immune systems have cleared the infection1.  QMPS’ review of one year’s data indicates that in about 20% of the cases the infection is caused by Gram negative bacteria that the cows can clear up in a few days on their own2.  Unnecessary use of antibiotics on farms has become a huge concern for the public.  About 80% of all antibiotics in the world are administered to farm animals, and this is driving the rise in “super bugs” that are resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics, which presents a huge public health threat.  On March 16th, 2016, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Infectious Diseases Society of America and a number of major food companies (e.g., Cargill, Costco, Hormel Foods, McDonalds, Tyson Food and Walmart) sent a letter to Congress asking for their support of the reasonable use of antibiotics in animal agriculture3.
  • Delaying treatment of cows infected with treatable organisms, which could be eliminated faster and more efficiently with a microbial treatment. Delayed treatment in these cases unnecessarily prolongs disease in the animal, increases lost revenue, and fails to provide the humane treatment that the animal deserves.  Consumer pressure is increasing on food providers to ensure ethical treatment of their animals, and failure to do so can result in lost business4.
  • Keeping a cow with contagious mastitis in the herd, and so spreading the disease to other animals.



Petrifilm and the Minnesota Easy Culture System are examples of current on-farm systems for identifying of the causes of mastitis. But the conclusion made by Greg Keefe and his colleagues in their article1 provides an excellent summary of the capabilities and limitations of these culture-based systems:

Selective treatment of clinical mastitis cases and dry cows based on established pathogen profiles will dramatically reduce antibiotic use in the dairy industry and can be done without short-or long-term negative consequences for milk quality and animal health. On-farm culture can play a key role in supporting evidence-based treatment decisions. Current technologies are less than ideal because they require a time lag between detection of clinical mastitis and therapy decisions. This affects both the utility of technology in the view of the producer and the economics of the program because delays in onset of treatment for Gram-positive cases influence the overall cost of a culture program. With increasing concern regarding antibiotic use in the dairy industry, developing technologies to aid in these treatment decisions should be an industry priority.

Acumen Detection’s on-farm system for identification of the causes of mastitis gives farmers the capability that’s missing from today’s on-farm culture systems; that is, the speed that’s required to make rapid, cost-effective decisions.

The figure below helps to illustrate how our system works. When a mastitic cow comes into the milking parlor, the herdsman will pull a sample into a bar-coded container. Our system will keep track of which quarter the sample came from the cow’s ID (ear tag) and the sample container number. The first test that is run is called the Presence of Mastitic Bacteria and Algae (POMBA) assay. In about two hours, that test will determine if pathogens are present in the milk, and will classify them as either Gram positive or Gram negative. If the POMBA assay is negative, as would be expected in about 40% of mastitic cows, then the farmer knows that cow doesn’t need treatment – actionable knowledge in about two hours for about the same cost of the Minnesota Easy Culture System.



Collaboration Study with Cornell Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS)

Acumen Mastitis Detection Paradigm

Acumen Detection is committed to improving the resilience and profitability of the dairy industry, and our system contributes to those goals by giving the farmer actionable knowledge, when it’s
needed, where it’s needed.

For more information, please contact us.

Acu-Polaris 5.22.17 copy

The AcuPolaris is an ‘on farm’ lab system that allows the producer to test for mastitis and other pathogens on the farm.

Animal Health Products

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1 Keefe, G., K. MacDonald, and M. Cameron, “On-Farm Culture: Role in Mastitis and Impact on Antimicrobial Use”, See:

2 Personal communication with Quality Milk Production Service (QMPS) on 4 March 2016.

3 Food Safety Magazine, News section, 16 March 2016, See:

4 Jennifer Walker, briefing titled “Politics, Policy, Profit & People: How they help & hinder animal welfare”, given at the Pro-Dairy Herd Health and Nutrition Conference 2016, Syracuse, NY, 13 April 2016.