Seven-year SCC reduction saved industry €38m
Despite very good progress in reducing SCC, there is still room for improvement.
If the average SCC in Irish milk was reduced by 10%, it would be worth €38m to the dairy industry.
From 2010 to 2017, the annual average SCC reduction in the national herd was 50,000. This was worth €38m to the industry (€27m to farmers and €11m to milk processors. Farmers participating in Cellcheck programmes reduced SCC at almost double this rate in recent years.
Cost of Mastitis/scc
Teagasc has estimated that a 100-cow dairy herd with average SCC 400,000 incurs additional mastitis related costs of €11,700 compared with a similar herd with 100,000 SCC. High SCCS also cause very significant costs at processor level.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI), Teagasc, co-ops and vets established the Cellcheck programme to achieve a national average bulk milk SCC of 200,000 or less by 2020. I think the target should be 100,000, but we would need a vast increase in the number of farmers in milk recording, for regular SCC monitoring.
Tackling SCC problems
Investigations during milking often reveal problems, particularly regarding milking and hygiene practices. If cows are restless in the parlour, it may indicate electrical problems, cows being 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 teat disinfectants is quite common which is often due to faulty or wrong type of sprayers. The proper usage of a good teat spray is 15 mls per cow and teats should be sprayed evenly all around. In a small minority of highscc herds, it is difficult to identify the cause. Disinfecting clusters between cows was found to prevent mastitis spreading within infected herds. Alternatively, if there are only a few problem cows, they could be milked last. The aim should be to keep bulk SCCS consistently under 150,000 and have very few cases of mastitis. SCCS of first lactation animals should be consistently under 70,000. If SCCS of first calvers and other young cows are rising, there is certainly something wrong and urgent action should be taken. There is a significant number of herds with SCCS consistently less than100,000. SCCS averaging over 200,000 indicates some infection in the herd which is likely to give rise to sporadic outbreaks of mastitis. Diseases such as BVD can depress the immune system and give rise to SCC problems.
There are two main aspects: get rid of existing infections, and prevent new infections. The first step in getting rid of existing infections is to identify and cull chronically infected cows with high SCCS. Good dry cow therapy will help reduce SCC levels, but will not help chronically infected cows. They should be culled. Preventing or minimising new infections is the key to mastitis control. The main practices for achieving this are: Maintain milking machines in perfect working order.
Some farmers find that lowering the vacuum level below the recommended 48 kpa helps to lower SCC. Change liners after 2,000 milkings, which is July for most spring calving herds. Practice a good milking technique and good hygiene. Use an approved teat dip after every milking. Use 10 cc/ cow/milking if dipping (1 litre of dip per 50 cows per day). If spraying use 15cc/cow and spray all around each teat. If the dip is at the correct strength, do not dilute it with any other product. Make sure your sprayer works correctly. Identify and treat new cases of mastitis promptly with antibiotics.
Some farmers find the CMT test very useful for early detection.
It is cheap, easy to use and gives instant results. Every farmer should monitor SCCS regularly throughout the year using milk recording reports. Use dry cow therapy properly.
Milkers should use clean gloves to prevent spread of bacteria on hands. Provide a comfortable, clean, dry environment for cows and heifers indoors. Keep cows free of stress from stray electricity or rough handling.
Cows are particularly susceptible to mastitis infection in the few weeks before and after calving and need a lot of attention.
Ensure that cows have adequate high quality minerals and trace elements.
“I think the target should be 100,000, but we would need a vast increase in the number of farmers in milk recording, for regular monitoring”