independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Ten ways to minimise the impact of mastitis on your calved cows this spring

IT IS important to minimise the loss of body condition score (BCS) after calving and capitalise on a cow's drive to eat post-calving.

If weather conditions allow, getting the freshly calved cow out to grass as soon as possible is an important step in maximising intake this spring, especially considering silage quality.

Do a farm walk to determine your availability of grass. The spring rotation plan can be a great tool to help you ration out the available grass, while feeding cows an adequate level of supplementation.

Remember that cows ideally need to have a body condition score of above BCS 2.75 at mating to result in a good reproductive performance.

Early lactation mastitis

Clinical mastitis and high bulk somatic cell count (SCC) are significant costs to the average dairy farmer.

It's important to realise that calving time (two weeks before until two weeks after calving) is the highest risk period for mastitis infection to occur.

Early detection of mastitis cases in the calving period will reduce the infection status of individual cows and the herd throughout the rest of the lactation. For more useful information, refer to Animal Health Ireland's Cell Check information, available on www.animalhealthireand.ie.

However, here are 10 actions that farmers should take to reduce the impact of mastitis this spring.

nPrior to calving consider training the heifers to the parlour before calving. Feeding and teat spraying them as they go through, will make the calving period less stressful on both man and beast.

nService your parlour and replace liners after every 2,000 cow milkings.

nCalve cows in a clean environment. Indoor calving boxes should be clean, with fresh, dry bedding, and avoid calving on slats or in cubicles. If outdoor on pads or in the paddock, the area should be sheltered and well drained with minimal manure contamination.

nRemove the calf immediately after calving and tube with three litres of colostrums within the first two hours of life.

nWear gloves when milking and change them after handling mastitis cows.

nDecide on a management and identification system for withholding colostrum/transitional milk for the first eight milkings. This is to make sure cows have exceeded the dry cow treatment withholding period and to help flag cows treated with antibiotics. Red sprays on legs or udders, and coloured tapes on tails are both common examples of simple systems.

nUse a California Milk Test (CMT) at a cow's seventh or eighth milking or forestrip to look for watery milk, clots or flecks. This will screen all colostrum cows for signs of mastitis or high SCC before being allowed to enter the bulk tank. Swollen quarters, heat and pain will also indicate mastitis. Decide whether to treat, leave and re-test any cow with milk quality issues before releasing her into the main herd.

nMonitor the number of cases of mastitis occurring, especially in freshly calved heifers. If more than 5pc of the cows have had mastitis in the first month of

calving, then investigate and correct any problems. Consider collecting sterile milk samples from clinical mastitis cases before you start treatment, and submit for bacterial culture. Identifying whether you're dealing with an environmental or contagious mastitis will help review your management, infrastructure and treatment practices. Note that samples can be frozen and stored for up to four months.

nEffective teat spraying is essential and make sure the teats are well sprayed with 15ml per cow. Emollients will help teat condition and use ready to use teat dipping products or dilute concentrate with cooled boiled water.

nMinimise the spread of bacteria from infected cows by milking them last. This will also provide the opportunity for closer observation and attention.

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