8 November 1996

Foremilk test has a vital role on Hants unit

TESTING foremilk for infection is playing a vital role in reducing cell counts on one Hampshire farm.

Matthew Bartrop, herdsman for Alresford-based J T and J &#42 Mills, says the aim is to reduce cell counts below the 150,000/ml mark by April 1997 when this milk will attract a 0.2p/litre bonus payment from buyer Milk Marque.

Cows with high cell counts at Bassets Dairy Farm, Bishops Storton, are identified using NMR figures for the farms 150 milkers. "Two years ago we had cell counts consistently over 500,000 and to tackle the problem the herd was split into a low – under 250,000 – cell count group and a high count group," says Mr Bartrop.

Once a month he sorts through NMR data with farm owner Peter Mills to identify high count cows. Foremilk from these cows is then sampled and tested for infection.

"Our ADAS consultant Ian Ohnstad advised us to use a home-made version of the California test to find out which quarters were affected," he says. Milk from each quarter is added to washing-up liquid mixed one-to-one with water in separate divisions of a Yorkshire pudding tin. "The result is quite striking because after a few seconds the sample from the infected quarter thickens into a gel, whereas samples from unaffected quarters remain milky," says Mr Bartrop.

The teat is treated immediately with a broad spectrum tube and the sample sent to the vet for examination. "Within 48 hours the vet lets us know which bug is causing the high cell count and we can then target the specific bug responsible – so treating infections more effectively," he says. &#42

Matthew Bartrop uses washing-up liquid and a Yorkshire pudding tin to find which quarters are infected.