Why farmers should test their milk before drying off cows
“Farmers should test their highest somatic cell count cows and to find out what dry-cow tubes will work and not to blanket dry off cows,” according to Veterinary Practitioner with Glanbia Shane McElroy.
McElroy told farmers at a recent Glanbia/Teagasc monitor farm walk that they should test their milking herd to find out which bacteria is causing the high cell count in the dairy cows. He said this will allow the farmer to make an informed decision when drying off their cows.
“Cows could have the same high levels of somatic cell count but depending on what strain is causing the mastitis in the quarter, it could be curable or not,” said Shane.
He said that cows with Staph. aureus could have as low as 10pc cure rate and that it is more economical to dry the quarter off than to treat it later into the lactation.
The most common cause of mastitis in Ireland is Coagulase-Negative Staphs (CNS) according to the vet and that this is much more curable and there is no need to cull.
CNS is spread from infected cows to the rest of the herd through the milking parlour and this, he said, can be managed by flushing clusters between each cow and by using gloves. He advised farmers to prevent the spread of disease in the herd to avoid having to treat it.
While also identifying the bacteria causing the mastitis, farmers can also learn which tubes will be effective in treating the cow.
“It costs €100 with Glanbia to get eight samples tested, you’re going to spend a lot more than this on tubes, so farmers make sure they’re using tubes that will work,” said McElroy
He also said that dairy farmers remain one of the highest users of antibiotics in Europe and that they need to show responsible use of antibiotics and to do so should get their milk tested before drying off their herd this year.
He also said there is no doubt that blanket drying cows will be banned in the future while farmers and veterinary practitioners will be more restricted in the use of antibiotics by the EU and the Department in the future.
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