Keeping cell counts down via careful management of milk
Four areas key to limiting infection and aiding production
THE PRODUCTION of milk with low cell counts requires consistent milking management. In some cases, farmers implement hygiene practices when the horse has bolted and the cell count has soared. However, it is often difficult to identify the specific reason for increases in bulk cell counts in milk.
SCC can be reduced by focusing on four main areas. This involves ensuring that the milking machine is running correctly, implementing a good infection control programme, carrying out the main milking practices correctly and using the management aids to their greatest potential. The fundamental issue is the poor cure rate obtained with antibiotics during lactation. It is a little distressing for farmers when, after full treatment for staph aureus-type infections in particular, the clinical symptoms can reoccur a few weeks after intensive treatment.
A major issue in milking management is making the milkers aware of the consequences of inconsistent practices. For example, the correct application of a good post-milking teat disinfection product to cows' teats after milking is the most significant and important task as it reduces new staphylococcus aureus infections by 50pc.
There is a high risk of spread of contagious mastitis from infected to uninfected cows during the milking process. Cluster dipping before the next cluster application reduces the spread of bacteria from cow to cow, and is a useful procedure, but it is quite laborious. Studies at Moorepark have shown that dipping the clusters in disinfectant between cows, or by pre-spraying with disinfectant plus drying with paper, reduces the number of staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the liners (table, below).
Automatic cluster flushing
Automated cluster flushing systems are now available and are effective at ensuring the cross infection from cow to cow does not occur. These systems allow clean water or treated water to enter the long milk tube after automatic cluster removal and flush both the long milk tube and the inside of the cluster.