This spring has been very challenging on farms to say the least. The weather hasn't been playing ball and getting out grazing has been difficult, leading to hygiene issues and cows becoming stressed; as a result, some farms are experiencing somatic cell count (SCC) problems.
Mastitis is a costly issue; especially when you take into consideration the cost of treatment, milk lost and if the cow has to be culled - this is a huge loss.
It is important to get on top of SCC issues before they get out of hand, infections spread to other healthy animals and to avoid them continuing into the milking season.
Hygiene is of the upmost importance when trying to avoid mastitis infections or SCC issues on farms.
This includes hygiene in the cubicle shed, hygiene at calving time and hygiene in the parlour when milking.
Whilst cows are housed, cubicles, passageways and yards must be kept clean. During the milking process, it is important to wear the correct clothing and keep yourself, the parlour and cows' teats clean.
If a cow becomes stressed this can cause a depressed immune system, triggering a mastitis infection or a jump in SCC.
A cow can become stressed when there is a lack of cubicle or feeding space, at calving, during the milking process or if a cow has been separated from the main herd for any reason.
A good milking routine and treatment protocol
You should start this year's milking season as you mean to go on, with a good milking routine.
That is, carrying out the milking routine in a efficient and effective manner, while minimising the amount of stress caused to the animals and yourself in the process.
A good milking routine should include things like:
- Presenting a clean cow for milking;
- Wearing the correct clothing - including nitrile gloves;
- Using an adequate amount of teat dip per cow (15ml/cow/milking);
- Routinely striping cows for signs of mastitis;
- Not over or under-milking cows.
Any cows showing signs of mastitis should be recorded and treated accordingly. If a cow is a repeat offender, they should be considered for culling.
An early milk recording will help you to easily identify cows with SCC issues, or those which were not cured over the dry period.
Milking parlour checks
Finally, it is important to complete daily, weekly and monthly checks on your milking machine to ensure everything is running and operating as it should be.
In some rare cases, an issue with the running of the milking machine can be a reason for a cow contracting a mastitis infection.