Be careful and take your time when drying off
The last few months have been very good from a somatic cell point of view. For the first five months of the year, the figures were disappointing due, no doubt, to the very harsh conditions at farm level.
However, we are now at the time of the year when some of you will be starting to dry off cows. In-calf first lactation animals are generally the first group to be dried off. This type of animal needs at least 12 weeks dry and, while body condition score is generally the chief reason for drying off, heifers that are showing high reading for somatic cell count should also be dried off.
Obviously, if you want to know which heifers are high you must be milk recording. Alternatively you will have to take a sample from each animal if you want individual readings. However, if you are milk recording, you have a serious amount of data to help you in your decision making.
I have extracted the information in Table 1 (right) from the very useful Milk Recording – Summary Farm Report. As well as giving you the overall herd situation, it also breaks the herd down into their different lactation number.
The table tells us the average somatic cell count (SCC) reading for heifers is 360,000. It also reveals that four of these heifers have had readings over 250,000 and one was treated for clinical mastitis.
On the strength of that report, what would you do? Well, firstly from a somatic cell count point of view, the four heifers should be dried off immediately. There are three reasons for this:
1.The longer the four heifers are dry, the greater the chance that they will calve down cured next spring;
2.Their impact on the bulk tank SCC reading;