For dairy farmers, early detection of an illness or disease can make all the difference between profit and loss. Advanced Animal Diagnostics, based in Durham, has developed a new piece of equipment that will allow dairy farmers to save days in diagnostic testing time and treat diseases quicker and therefore, more effectively.

The innovative diagnostic reader allows vets or dairy producers to perform their own diagnostic tests on-site. This allows farmers to avoid the lengthy process of preparing a sample and sending it away for testing, which can take up to three days.

AAD’s reader gives dairy farmers the “ability to make better decisions,” says Joy Drach, the company’s president and CEO. According to Drach, the company is “focused on applying technology to give the producer rapid, real-time diagnostics on-farm.”

The reader analyzes a cow’s milk sample through a white blood cell differential test, which identifies three key types of white blood cells and indicates the relative abundance of each. This information can be used to identify which cows are affected by harmful diseases or infections, such as mastitis.

Mastitis is the most common disease in American dairy cattle and also the most costly. It is characterized by a persistent inflammation of the udder tissue, causing swelling and hardening of the udder. This infection can limit or ruin milk production from the affected region.

Mastitis is a “significant problem and we can provide a great benefit to farmers by minimizing losses,” says Drach, who explained that mastitis accounts for nearly $2 billion in annual losses for the U.S. dairy industry and $10 billion globally.

Typically, by the time mastitis develops to the point of detection, the infection has advanced to a point that is very difficult to treat. By identifying the presence of mastitis earlier, farmers can then treat the infection and minimize these losses.

AAD’s reader, which is about the size of a desktop computer, is an effective and easy-to-use tool in fighting mastitis and other diseases.

When a farmer suspects a cow is developing mastitis, he would gather a milk sample for testing. The user inputs key information into the reader, such as the animal’s identification number, selects which test is to be performed and then loads the sample. In about three minutes, the sample has been analyzed and results are displayed and can be downloaded to a farm’s existing program.

AAD’s reader also allows samples from the four quarters of a cow’s udder to be combined onto a single slide, which shows the specific area that is affected and allows for non-infected areas to continue to be used. It is a “big improvement from technology currently on the market,” says Drach.

AAD is currently completing clinical trials and plans to begin selling its reader and its tests commercially this fall.

About AAD

Advanced Animal Diagnostics is a developer of technologies for the rapid diagnosis of farm animal diseases. The company was founded in 2001 with a Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the USDA. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center awarded the company a $20,000 company inception loan in 2007, followed by a $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant for research at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center