Form expert team to solve SCC woes
Teamwork is defined as "the work or co-ordinated effort of a group of people to produce a desired result or a common goal".
Nowhere is this as important as when dealing with mastitis or a somatic cell count (SCC) issue. The team may consist of:
- The farming family;
- Veterinary surgeons;
- Milking machine technician;
- Teagasc adviser and/or nutritionist adviser;
- Co-op technical adviser.
The advantages of a team approach is that, firstly, it ensures all expertise that can make a positive contribution is involved and, secondly, members of the team will motivate each other and create necessary deadlines for actions.
Historically farmers may have thrown darts at the cell count problem, such as changing a teat dip, introducing a new dry cow tube or more commonly 'earthing' the machine to prevent any stray voltage driving cows and the SCC mad. Success with this approach has been absent or short-lived at best, and we have found it more appropriate to segment the problem and examine three major components: the milking machine, the milking routine and the cow, and the bug and the environment (diagram, right).
The SCC team needs to define the extent of the problem and any improvements they might achieve. Milk recording and ICBF analysis offer such a tool.
These ICBF reports help decide what groups or clusters of animals within the herd are affected. Is it the freshly calved heifers or is it the older cows in late lactation that are the worst affected? There is plenty of work to be done in these herds.
The cost to the farm of a high cell count problem -- including penalties, loss of production, loss of milk yield and use of medicines -- is huge. For a 100-cow herd with a cell count problem of a rolling 400,000 cells/ml the cost is estimated at around €24,000 per annum. Spending money on prevention is a no brainer.