Still room for improvement in infection battle

ICBF reports show the average SCC of all spring calving herds recorded in October was 206,000.

While this is a good improvement on previous years, there is still room for improvement. The best 20% averaged 140,000, while the worst 20% averaged 320,000. 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. Disappointingly, there are still 10% to 20% farms with SCCs ranging between 300,000 and 400,000.

So the first step should be to get the herd average comfortably under 200,000, by following the tried and proven complete national mastitis control programme.

First calved heifers are the best barometers of your mastitis control programme. It is the first thing that farmers should look at in the report. Unfortunately, heifers being recorded in recent years had a yearly average SCC of 190,000, which shows 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 have a 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 SCC and herds over 350,000 SCC with most heifers carrying infection showing high readings.

Farmers who are not milk recording are in a difficult situation. The best they can do is cull cows which are consistently getting mastitis, and start proper SCC testing next year through milk recording.

Unfortunately a lot of farm-ers don’t make full use of the infor mation 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.

The cost of high SCC/mastitis in Ireland is estimated to be about €30m per annum. At any one time, it is estimated one-cow-in-four is affected by sub clinical mastitis (high SCC). On average, there are about 40 mastitis cases per 100 cows in Irish dairy herds.

Proper use of a good quality licensed teat dip/spray, and good hygiene, are priorities, along with ensuring the milking machine is in perfect working order. All the rules and practices of good mastitis control should be carefully followed throughout the year.

Animal Health Ireland (AHI), Teagasc and co-ops are doing a lot of work on mastitis control. They have established the “Cell Check/Mastitis” programme — and every farmer should follow it (all the information is on the www.cellcheck.ie website).

This programme is broadly similar to what has been developed by Teagasc over the years and is proved to be highly effective when proper-ly carried out. The objective is to maintain a national average bulk milk SCC of 200,000 or less by 2020. The only barrier to achieving this objective will be to get sufficient farmers to participate.

The www.cellcheck.ie web-site has a mastitis CostCheck calculator which allows each dairy farmer to estimate the potential gains in profit from reducing the incidence of mastitis on his/her dairy farm, using their own data.

The Teagasc milk quality hand book has an estimate that a 100-cow dairy herd with average SCC 400,000 would incur additional mastitis related costs of €11,700, compared with a similar herd with 100,000 SCC.

A study by AHI indicates net farm income on dairy farms can be increased by €10,000 by reducing SCC from 350,000 to less than 200,000. High SCCs also cause very significant costs at processor level. Co-ops are paying a bonus for milk with less than 200,000 SCC, and in some areas, almost 70% of dairy farm-ers are not availing of this.


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