Vets likely customers for milk cell services for farmers

Stephen Cadogan reports on newly launched products and counters.

A NEW piece of technology could help dairy farmers improve the quality of their milk, resulting in a bigger cheque from the creamery.

High somatic cell counts will always be a problem for milk producers.

But early detection of the problem can help reduce the loss in milk yield, milk quality and the cost of veterinary intervention.

The new DeLaval cell counter will be launched in Ireland early in 2005, and is expected to retail at about €2,900.

It will enable farmers to monitor cell counts themselves on the farm rather than having to wait for results to come back from the laboratory.

It will also allow farmers to check on the SCC results given by their creamery.

And it’s quick. Checking a sample only takes 45 seconds.

The cell counter can be used for bulk milk counts, to monitor cow groups, or to check on an individual quarter of a particular cow. “It gives farmers more immediate and accurate information about their herd health,” says David Gordon of DeLaval.

“For example, where a cow has a high count, it may be caused by one particular quarter. Normally, in this situation, all the farmer can do is treat all four of the quarters. With the cell counter, the problem quarter can be identified by the farmer and individually treated,” says Mr Gordon.

It went on the market in the UK recently.

The first customers are expected to be vets, for whom the counter will enable quicker diagnosis.

But it’s unlikely to be long before this becomes a standard piece of equipment on commercial dairy farms.

“It’s not a cure-all,” says Mr Gordon. “It needs to be part of an integrated management system. While it provides valuable information for the farmer, it is what the farmer does with the information that will make the all of the difference.”

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