Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Dairy device proving a smart choice

iPhone device
iPhone device
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Despite its hefty €2,000 price, a new smartphone device is selling well to dairy farmers large and small for Kilkenny firm, Dairy Direct.

In less than a minute, the RT10 can not only accurately measure the somatic cell count (SCC) of milk, but determine the type of infection, whether it is E coli, Staph aureus, or any other of the common causes of mastitis.

The device only works on Apple iPhones, but over 30 farmers have already purchased the device in the belief that it will save them money.

"I had a local farmer that milks 70 cows who had a cell count of over 600,000. He told me that he couldn't afford the kit, but within three and a half weeks of using the device, he had got his SCC back to 120,000," said Dairy Direct's Kathryn Kennelly. "By that stage the farmer told us that he couldn't afford not to have it."

The small cradle contains a lens that transforms the phone's camera into a microscope. A milk sample is applied to a small slide that contains colouring agent that shows up the infected cells in the sample. This slide is then inserted into the device, and the app calculates the SCC of the milk.

It is able to use the different shapes of cell formations within the milk to identify which bacteria is causing the infection.

"It was only invented last year, and we happened to stumble across it as we were googling information on ways to tackle high cell counts at farm level," said Ms Kennelly. "We bought one just to help us on farm visits, but quickly realised that it was a great piece of kit for any dairy farm.

"A standard lab test will generally take 72 hours to turn around, so this completely revolutionises that. It also allows the farmer to easily monitor the progression of cell counts in quarters that have been treated, and store all the info on each cow and quarter."

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Dairy Direct claim that the information collected by the app can be transferred to any of the herd record-keeping programmes used widely in Ireland. Delaval have already purchased 10,000 RT10s in the US.

Teagasc research has shown that farmers can earn an additional 1.5/l by reducing their cell count from 250,000 to 150,000.

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