19 April 2002

Low cells, high labour

SOMATIC CELL counts are currently between 50,000 and 60,000 at Thorney Abbey Farm, which has won milk hygiene prizes. But this requires an extra hour a day spent on milking, believes Sue Guy.

"Milking is time consuming. I spend 1.25-1.5 hours milking 70 cows at each end of the day in a 10/10 direct-to-line herringbone parlour."

Each teat is pre-dipped, clean-ed and fore milked. Teats are also post-dipped. "I know all high cell count cows and use a California mastitis test kit. When a cow has one high cell count quarter, I will milk the other three normally and the offending one last," she says.

High cell count cows are milked last and clusters used to milk suspect cows are always cleaned and disinfected before future use. For cows with persistently high counts in one quarter, Mrs Guy will also consider drying this off early. "Often these cows milk fine in the next lactation with low cell counts."

Andy Guy believes it is worth the trouble. "Some believe older cows have higher cell counts, but this isnt true. We have seventh lactation cows whose cell counts are no higher than younger animals."

With commitment, he be-lieves there is no reason why a 300-cow herd shouldnt have a cell count below 150,000. "These herds need to find ways to motivate staff and insist on high standards. They must also give staff time to look at cows."

"With motivated staff, I dont see why anyone cant achieve low cell counts," adds Mrs Guy.