8 November 1996

Tackle mastitis across board

Our focus on milk hygiene looks at how slats can improve cow cleanliness and offers advice on buying dairy chemicals. Here we examine how to meet tough new hygienic quality standards that could earn an extra 0.6p/litre. Jessica Buss and Sue Rider report

WHOLE herd management is the key to reducing cell counts to below 100,000/ml on Alastair Haywards Lea Grange Farm, at Twycross, Atherstone, Warwicks.

"If any one aspect of mastitis control is ignored then more infection results," he says. "Just one extra infected cow makes the battle for lower cell counts that much harder."

He believes that paying attention to nutrition, comfort of the cows and handling with care, all make for a contented herd.

Dry cow therapy

All cows had been dried off abruptly using a 30-day activity dry cow antibiotic such as Orbenin DC or Leo Red. But because cows are dry for six to eight weeks, protection has been increased by using the longer-acting Cepravin dry cow tube.

"Cows are milked twice a day until the drying off date, usually eight weeks before calving," says Mr Hayward. Teat ends are wiped with cotton wool soaked in surgical spirit and a tube placed in each quarter.

Culling

The combination of good clinical records and the correct use of individual cow cell counts has kept culling to a minimum, says Genus consultant Kate Allen.

"Cows suffering frequent recurrence of disease, probably the most infectious cows in any herd, have been given priority. Where possible cows with infections not responding to dry cow therapy – as shown by a consistently high cell count of over 200,000 cell/ml in the first two months of the new lactation – are not served.

Milking routine

Udders are wiped with clean paper towels before the clusters are attached – washing only when absolutely necessary. "The less water that comes into contact with the udder the better," says Mr Hayward.

Post-milking teat disinfection is by spraying with an iodophor. "Good coverage is achieved and the herdsman is careful to spray as soon as possible after the units come off," says Ms Allen.

Teat condition is monitored before and after milking to minimise chaps and mechanical damage.

When a mastitis case does occur Mr Hayward uses Tetra Delta tubes once a day for three days; for stubborn cases he has found Synulox to be effective.

Housing is mainly in cubicles or kennels. Passages are scraped twice a day to keep bedding dry and cubicles bedded three times a week.

Aim is to keep cows as clean as possible between milkings.

to last winter all the milkers were housed in cubicles or kennels. A straw-bedded covered yard now also houses 30 cows.

"The aim has always been to keep the cows clean between milkings so that a dry wipe is usually all that is needed as teat preparation for milking.

Passages are scraped twice a day to keep bedding dry. "My first job in the morning is the scraping out which enables me to check on the condition of the cubicle beds."

He beds up the cubicles three times a week with straw that has been stored under cover – wet or soiled straw is always removed from the beds first.

"We now use a Teagle bale chopper and use less straw than when we used small bales spread by hand."

Hydrated lime is sprinkled on the beds once a week before chopped straw is blown in.

LOOKING FOR LOW BULK MILK COUNTS?

&#8226 Does dry cow therapy cover entire dry period?

&#8226 Is the milking plant tested regularly?

&#8226 Are you keeping good clinical records?

&#8226 Are you keeping cows clean between milkings?

Lea Grange: Average cell counts by lactation age (NMR Summary)

Lactation ageSep 95Oct 95Nov 95Dec 95

11291238081

298858582

31008110465

4348223213404

5+222189170156

(The herd mainly calves between July and November which explains transient peaks)

THE PROBLEM

THE herd with an average cell count of over 400,000 cells/ml in Nov 1992 is now achieving results of 100 and less while maintaining a low clinical mastitis incidence – 22 cows cases in a herd of 149 during 1995.

Mastitis at calving is a now rare event – which reflects good dry cow management. Culling for mastitis now averages 2-3 cows a year.

Alastair Hayward (inset) beds cubicles three times a week with straw using a Teagle chopper; hydrated lime is sprinkled on the beds weekly.


LOW BULK MILK COUNTS


&#8226 Does dry cow therapy cover entire dry period?

&#8226 Is the milking plant tested regularly?

&#8226 Are you keeping good clinical records?


The problem

The herd with an average cell count of over 400,000 cells/ml in Nov 1992 is now achieving results of 100 and less while maintaining a low clinical mastitis incidence – 22 cows cases in a herd of 149 during 1995.

Mastitis at calving is a now rare event – which reflects good dry cow management. Culling for mastitis now averages 2-3 cows a year.