Face the facts and take steps to stop SCC be­com­ing a costly prob­lem

Too many farm­ers ig­nore an is­sue that can lead to de­creased milk yield, re­duc­ing an­nual prof­its by €90 per cow

Irish Independent - Farming - - ANIMAL HEALTH - Ea­mon O’Con­nell

No mat­ter what type of cow you milk, what your calv­ing pat­tern is or even what part of the coun­try you are in, one thing is com­mon to all herds: So­matic Cell Count (SCC) and the mas­ti­tis cases that ac­com­pany it.

At this time of year, SCC tends to stay un­der the radar. Silage, breed­ing, fenc­ing and re­seed­ing are all much higher up the ‘to-do’ list than even think­ing about SCC.

The more farm­ers I chat to about SCC, the more I re­alise that there isn’t re­ally a com­mon fig­ure that ev­ery­one is happy with: one farmer could be dis­ap­pointed if the herd SCC goes over 70,000, whereas another might be con­tent with any fig­ure less than 200,000.

I’m also start­ing to re­alise that a lot of farm­ers can find an ex­cuse for a rise in SCC: “Sure it’s al­ways high in Fe­bru­ary” or “It creeps up at the back end of the year re­gard­less”.

So, re­gard­less of the fig­ure, if you are happy with your SCC, is it re­ally a prob­lem?

The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing SCC is, if it’s not hit­ting you di­rectly in your pocket, then it’s very hard to be con­vinced that it’s an is­sue.

Most co-ops will flag in­creas­ing SCC but fines don’t re­ally come into play un­til bulk-tank SCC goes above at least 300,000, and even then, it will have to stay there for a long time be­fore any dra­matic sanc­tion is en­forced.

Usu­ally in a herd, if high SCC is flagged, the of­fend­ing ‘mil­lion­aire’ is found and taken out of the tank (there are prob­a­bly a few late calves to be fed) and the prob­lem goes away.

How­ever, there are hid­den costs of high SCC that may not have a di­rect vis­i­ble ef­fect, but can still cause a dra­matic re­duc­tion in profit.

SCC causes not only a de­crease in milk yield, but also a de­crease in milk qual­ity. Stud­ies have shown that yearly net profit is re­duced by €90 per cow in a herd with an SCC be­tween 200,000 and 300,000. If the herd SCC is over 400,000, the re­duc­tion is €190 per cow.

These fig­ures should be enough to make ev­ery­one be­gin to take SCC very se­ri­ously.

The first step, as with most prob­lems in life, is to recog­nise that there is a prob­lem. If your cell count is above 150,000, then it needs to be ad­dressed.

There is no sil­ver bul­let for SCC. If a magic po­tion was able to cure it, ev­ery herd would be un­der 100,000 all year round. But the prob­lem can be solved

We are all fa­mil­iar with the five­point plan for mas­ti­tis con­trol, which has been around since the ’60s. and is fun­da­men­tally still sound, but needs adapt­ing and adding to for to­day’s herd:

1. Treat and record all cases of mas­ti­tis. 2. Post-milk­ing teat dis­in­fec­tion. 3. Dry cow ther­apy for all cows. 4. Cull chronic cases. 5. Reg­u­lar milk­ing ma­chine maintenanc­e.

Point 1 is the pil­lar of all dis­ease con­trol: with­out records, we are run­ning around in the dark.

With re­gard to post-milk­ing teat dip­ping/spray­ing, it is not enough to just say that we should be do­ing it.

We need to use the cor­rect prod­uct (one with a fly re­pel­lent and an emol­lient) and we need to use the cor­rect amount, cov­er­ing all four teats equally.

Dry cow ther­apy for all cows will soon be a thing of the past. We need sam­ples from af­fected cows to be an­a­lysed to de­ter­mine the bac­te­ria in­volved and which an­tibi­otic will work best. Reg­u­lar milk record­ing is a must.

Culling chronic cases can be the most dif­fi­cult hur­dle.

“My best cow just scanned in calf for Fe­bru­ary but her cell count is 3 mil­lion.”

Firstly, un­for­tu­nately she’s not your best cow. She could ac­tu­ally be your worst cow be­cause, if you aren’t clus­ter-flush­ing or dip­ping, she

Costs:

There are hid­den costs of high SCC that may not have a di­rect vis­i­ble ef­fect, but can still cause a dra­matic re­duc­tion in dairy herd performanc­e and prof­its. could be in­fect­ing cows opposite her at ev­ery milk­ing.

If you are that fond of her, take a sample from all four quar­ters. If only one is high, she might sur­vive as a three-spin cow. If not, the chances of her cur­ing, even with ag­gres­sive an­tibi­otic treat­ment, are slim to none.

Reg­u­lar milk­ing ma­chine maintenanc­e should not just in­volve get­ting the ma­chine ser­viced in Jan­uary of ev­ery year. Lin­ers should be changed ev­ery 2,000 milk­ings. In a 120-cow herd in a 14-unit par­lour, this is just shy of ev­ery four months.

Even with all these ar­eas ad­dressed, the prob­lem may still per­sist.

Vac­ci­na­tion has re­cently come to the fore as a use­ful tool to work along­side all the other so­lu­tions.

The dif­fi­culty in solv­ing an SCC is­sue is what makes most farm­ers ig­nore it.

Maybe it’s time to take to take your head out of the sand, sit down with your vet and get stuck into solv­ing what is def­i­nitely a costly prob­lem.

The first step, as with most prob­lems in life, is to recog­nise that there is a prob­lem. If your cell count is above 150,000, then it needs to be ad­dressed

Ea­mon O’Con­nell is a vet with the Sum­mer­hill Ve­teri­nary Clinic, Ne­nagh, Co Tip­per­ary

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