7 June 1996

Ways to lower the cell count

LOWER cell count herds tend to be those that allow cows a longer dry period, according to a recent Mallinckrodt survey of 1500 milk producers.

It revealed that only 17.5% of herds with a dry period of under six weeks had a cell count below 100,000/ml. But 26% achieved cell counts below 100,000 with a six- to eight-week dry period and 35% were below 100,000 when cows were dry for over eight weeks.

Company vet Gethin Maddocks says a full dry period allows cows udders to recover fully before the next lactation.

Independent veterinary consultant James Booth says a quarter of respondents also mentioned culling cows as the main way of reducing cell counts. And 50% of producers claimed they based culling decisions on individual cell counts.

Culling will reduce cell counts initially but fails to control the spread of disease or tackle environmental mastitis, he stresses. "Culling is not a method of mastitis control. When that is all you do, in one or two years you will have the same level of infection."

The survey shows that the actual cause of mastitis is not being treated – 80% of producers questioned were unable to identify the most common mastitis pathogen. Yet such knowledge would allow some high cell count cows to be treated so avoiding unnecessary culls. &#42

&#8226 Long dry periods help cut cell counts.

&#8226 Culling does not control mastitis.

&#8226 Test to identify main mastitis causing bacteria.