Visitors to a farm open day taking place today in Co Fermanagh will see how new technology can be used to control mastitis, the most common and costly disease in dairy herds.
The Grey family at Oghill Farm, Killadeas, Enniskillen, were first in Ireland to install DeLaval’s HerdNavigator system.
Mastitis detection is one of the ways it offers dairy farmers a better overview of their herd, and valuable information on individual cows.
Oghill Farm has had a DeLaval Voluntary Milking System for the herd of 210 Jersey cows since 2014.
With this DeLaval robotic system, the Greys already had help with mastitis detection, because the milking robot detects the changes in electrical conductivity, due to chemicals like like sodium chloride increasing in the milk during mastitis infection.
This increases the milk’s electrical conductivity, and is used for early warning in automated milking (although some false alarms can be expected).
However, the Herd Navigator mastitis detection measures the LDH (Lactate-dehydrogenase) enzyme, which rises during infection, earlier than the increase in electrical conductivity.
Both methods are more reliable than traditional mastitis detection, and can spot infection days before the clinical signs can be seen for traditional detection.
The farmer can become aware of these clinical cases observed during milking —clotting and discoloration of the milk, and the udder becoming hard, red or swollen.
In severe cases the cow has fever and loss of appetite.
However, sub-clinical mastitis, much harder to detect, can be up to 40 times more common than clinical cases.
Few symptoms may show except for repeated occasional clinical flare-ups of the disease, which cause irreversible damage to the udder.
There can be 20-50 acute clinical mastitis cases per 100 cows per year (each likely to cost the farmer about €140).
Meanwhile, subclinical infection levels can be 5-35% of quarters.
The more severe the inflammatory response in mastitis, the higher the activity of the LDH enzyme which the Herd Navigator measures at each milking, or as often as required.
Most of the Herd Navigator LDH alarms will appear up to four days before clinical signs.
After treatment, the LDH and mastitis risk level return gradually back to normal.
According to DeLaval, Herd Navigator used with their VMS systems can deliver quarter specific mastitis alarms.
As a back-up, the farmer can also carry out traditional detection methods on mastitis alarm cows.
According to DeLaval, Herd Navigator also offers over 95% heat detection though analysis of the progesterone level in milk, and farmers using the system will be made aware of cows affected by metabolic disorders such as ketosis before symptoms are visible.
At Oghill farm in Enniskillen, since the installation of Herd Navigator, the heat detection rate has tripled, according to Marcus Grey.
According to DeLaval, conception rates increase too, because Herd Navigator helps determine the best time to inseminate a cow, which can vary from herd to herd.
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