Recent information from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) showed that the average somatic cell count (SCC) of all cows recorded in the first 10 days of October this year was 215,000 (206,000 last year).
Nearly half (46%) of those recorded averaged under 200,000. Disappointingly, there are still 22% farms with SCCs ranging between 300,000 and 400,000, and 10% over 400,000.
There is great variation among farms and cows.
Herds which have SCC consistently above 250,000 are living with infection which is costly and difficult to control.
So the first step should be to get the herd average comfortably under 200,000 by following the tried and proven complete Teagasc/Animal Health Ireland mastitis control programme.
First calved heifers are the real barometers of your mastitis control programme.
It is the first thing that farmers should look at in the milk recording SCC report.
Unfortunately, heifers being recorded in recent years had a yearly average SCC of over 150,000, which proves that heifers are being widely infected. The SCC of heifers should be well under 80,000 except for the odd heifer which might temporarily pick up infection and raised SCC before being cured quickly.
The figures in the ICBF report show a very wide range of SCCs between herds and cows. There are many herds under 100,000 SCC with heifers under 70,000, and herds over 350,000 SCC, with most heifers carrying infection and showing high SCC readings. Farmers who are not milk recording are in a difficult situation, and the best they can do is cull cows which are consistently getting mastitis and start proper SCC testing next year through milk recording. The most important aid to controlling mastitis/SCC is the information contained in herd milk recording reports. Unfortunately a lot of farmers don’t make full use of the information on the milk recording reports.
Check the SCC movements of first calvers very closely. If these are moving up and down it is a sure sign they are getting infection. Proper treatment at drying off is very important.
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