The udder health of a research herd of between 160 and 220 Friesian cows run on a commercial basis has been monitored closely, including detailed bacteriological study, over 5 years. The five point mastitis control plan had been in use for several years prior to this study and was continued with minor alterations to the management of the plan, more detailed bacteriological monitoring and increased encouragement to apply it. It has proved possible to make a substantial improvement in the udder health of the herd. The percentage of infected cows fell from 21·9 to 12·0 and the percentage of infected quarters from 7·3 to 3·3. The main benefit has been a drastic reduction in the rate of clinical and subclinical mastitis caused by coagulase-positive staphylococci. However the total incidence of clinical mastitis did not change substantially, averaging around 30 cases/100 cows per year. This was largely because environmental mastitis organisms were responsible for 65 % of all clinical cases. The results showed marked differences in the patterns of infection due to the environmental mastitis pathogens, Gram-negative bacteria and aesculin-hydrolysing streptococci, suggesting different mechanisms of invasion of the gland.