19 October 2001

Ease out stress to keep mastitis levels in check

Managing cows to reduce

the incidence of mastitis,

internal teat-seals and

somatic cell counts as a

breed selection trait were

some of the topics

discussed at the British

Mastitis Conference in

Lancs. Jeremy Hunt reports

REDUCING stress on cows and staff can have a marked impact on reducing mastitis, says Oxon dairy producer John Gerring.

Mr Gerring decided to invest in a new milking parlour seven years ago, as the farms 400 cows had outgrown the 16:16 low-line system.

"It was causing problems typical of many farms today – unhappy cows, unhappy milkers, unacceptable mastitis, lameness and poor throughput.

"Our target was to milk 150 cows an hour, low stress on cows and staff, minimal mastitis and to invest no more than £80,000 in the new system," said Mr Gerring.

He told the conference that to radically improve performance there had to be a completely different approach to milking. "We now take greater consideration of the effects of equipment on the cow and milker and see matters from their perspective."

The system now operating at his Mount Pleasant Farm, Faringdon, had seen mastitis incidence reduce.

In one herd, where there were previously 33 cases/100 cows a year, the figure had been cut to just eight cases/100 cows.

His new low mastitis system includes a rectangular collecting yard of about 10m (33ft) wide with a good backing gate, which is not electrified.

Eliminating stray voltage was important, he added. He had included welded mesh as part of the new parlour installation, under the whole of the collecting yard and parlours concrete floor.

At the parlour entrance lead-in rails aid entry of cows to their milking positions and care in the design means there are no corners. Cow movement also depends on a safe and unobstructed route into and out of the parlour with no steps, grids and a sound floor in good repair. Cows must exit from the herringbone race by going straight forward, he said.

Giving cows 0.76m (2.5ft) of space was also recommended. His parlour has a zig-zag rump rail and an adjustable breast rail. The pit width is 1.5m (5ft) and it is 0.9m (3ft) deep. A good wash-down system is important.

He also believes in keeping parlour electronics to a minimum and avoiding feeding in the parlour.

"These are the features we have incorporated into our parlour. This has resulted in a reduction in mastitis incidence and cow throughput has almost doubled." &#42

Mastitis cases have reduced after an investment in a new low-stress parlour, says John Gerring.

NEWPARLOURS

&#8226 Reduce stress on cow.

&#8226 Ease staff stress.

&#8226 Design for good cow flow.