In 2014, 53% of Irish herds had SCCs less than 200,000; in 2010, only 26% of herds achieved that target
Teagasc experts, in their milk quality handbook, estimate that a 100-cow dairy herd with average SCC at 400,000 incurs additional mastitis related costs of €11,700, compared with a similar herd at 100,000 SCC.
High SCCs also cause very significant costs at milk processor level.
Every farmer should follow the “Cell Check/Mastitis” programme established by Animal Health Ireland (AHI), Teagasc, co-ops and vets.
This programme is broadly similar to what was developed by Teagasc over the years, and is proven to be highly effective when properly carried out.
The objective of this programme is to maintain a national average bulk milk SCC of 200,000 or less by 2020.
I believe that the only barrier to achieving this objective will be to get sufficient farmers to participate in the programme.
I feel that the target should be 150,000, but we need a more realistic number of farmers in milk recording.
The introduction of bonuses for low SCC and realistic penalties for high SCC milk was delayed far too long, and allowing seasonal adjustment for SCC prolonged the problem.
The modern emphasis on milking speed often results in a lowering of milking standards.
And only about 50% of our herds are milk recorded, with very poor use often made of recording reports.
Investigations during milking often reveal problems that will not be revealed by testing a machine, particularly milking and hygiene practice problems.
If cows are restless in the parlour, it may indicate electrical problems, cows packed too tightly, a milking machine fault, or poor milking practices.
Teat end damage is a major tell-tale sign that something is wrong.
Taking clusters off under some vacuum is still fairly common in problem herds.
This may be due to faulty shut-off valves, or poor milking technique.
Clusters should be taken off and put on without any noise of air or vacuum.
Otherwise, there will be teat end damage which will lead to mastitis and high SCC.
Teat end damage also results from vacuum being too high, poor pulsation or inadequate fall in milk line (very common in older machines).
Inadequate use of teat disinfectants is quite common, often due to using the wrong type of sprayers, or faulty sprayers.
Proper usage delivers 15 mls per cow of teat spray, and teats should be sprayed evenly all around.
In a small minority of high-SCC herds, it is difficult to identify the cause ,and a lot of investigation is required.
Disinfecting clusters between cows was found to be a major deterrent to spreading mastitis within infected herds.
Alternatively, if there are only a few problem cows, they could be milked last.
In summary, it could be concluded that the main reasons for high SCCs include faulty milking machines, faulty milking technique, poor hygiene, inadequate teat disinfectant, inadequate SCC records, inadequate culling, and inappropriate antibiotic use in problem herds off is very important, and will be dealt with here next week.
Dry cow antibiotics are much more powerful than lactation antibiotics and as they will remain in the udder for the entire dry period, they will be much more effective in curing high SCC cows.