Individual recording of cow somatic cell counts is a must in order to get on top of mastitis and promote responsible antibiotic use.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly at Livestock 2012, vet Mark Burnell of XL Vet practice, Synergy Farm Health, said records were a prerequisite for mastitis control.

“There is no excuse not to record. This enables farmers to understand which animals have mastitis, which have repeat cases and which cows to cull. When producers are not recording individual cow somatic cell counts (SCC), it is not possible to get on top of the problem.”

Although milk recording was the gold standard, Mr Burnell said all farmers should have some way of recording at cow level, be it carrying out the California Milk Test (CMT) or investing in a SCC counter.

“You need to pick up cases early when cell counts are at 200,000 cells/ml. The CMT is a crude test and makes it difficult to detect SCC below 400,000 cells/ml, so ideally you need proper numbers coming through monthly to pick up problems early.

“You will always get some natural fluctuation in SCC, so you are looking for animals that have high SCC over a number of readings.”

He stressed that only by understanding what was going on at cow level could antibiotics be used responsibly.

Vet Tim Potter of the Westpoint Vet Group said pressure from Europe and the public meant the industry should be talking about responsible medicine use, not just responsible antibiotic use.

“The approach to medicine use should be as little as possible, but as much as needed.”

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