5 July 2002

Cell counts may hit record level

MORE than one-quarter of dairy farms are predicted to have somatic cell counts exceeding 250,000 cells/ml, reducing income by at least £250 for a 100-cow herd.

If cell counts continue their seasonal trend this year, many units will see record levels this summer, says NMRs Mike Blanshard. "Levels were 14% higher in the first quarter of 2002, compared with the same time last year."

Many buyers make deductions for milk with a cell count above 250,000.

Tiverton, Devon-based vet Andrew Biggs believes the delay in culling cows last year due to foot-and-mouth restrictions is responsible for the increase. This has left a residual infection where cell counts are normally controlled by annual culling. Another cause is cows lying in dung patches under trees in the shade, increasing contamination of teats.

"While cases of mastitis dont seem to be much higher, carrier cows with high cell counts have increased. Lab tests show a particular increase in Staph aureus and Strep uberis infections this summer."

To combat high counts, Mr Biggs advises identifying high cell count cows and the bug responsible. Once this is known, animals can be dried off or treated in lactation.

"Also check that the risk of spreading bugs is minimised during milking," he adds. &#42

Month Band

250-400 >400

July 24.1 5.2

Aug 23.4 4.6

Sept 20.5 3.6