What to do with high cell count cows

When Bulk Milk Cell Counts are elevated there is plenty of incentive to reduce them – but what are the options?
Cows with subclinical mastitis infections have cell counts above 250,000 cells/ml, but no visible changes in the milk.
The question is how to remove the cells from the vat (and infections from the cows) most effectively.
• Treatment during lactation is NOT generally recommended. It has a relatively low chance of success and is expensive (milk discarded and antibiotic cost).
• Culling is a very expensive option unless the cows have chronic infections (high cell counts in two lactations with Dry Cow Treatment in-between) or have other reasons to leave the herd.

Antibiotic Dry Cow Treatment at drying-off is the best approach.

Whatever the approach to removing infections, it is essential to minimise spread to clean cows by hygiene at milking and 100% coverage of teats with teat disinfectant.
Identifying the infected cows
• Herd Testing provides Individual Cow Cell Counts (ICCCs) regularly during lactation.
Cows with any cell count above 250,000 are likely to be infected.
Diverting milk from these cows to feed calves for sale is also an option for some farms.
Treatment during lactation – usually not recommended
• Antibiotic treatment for subclinical infections during lactation usually has a low chance of success. It is just not possible to keep enough antibiotic in the udder for long enough. The costs in antibiotic and discarded milk are usually too high for the likely benefits, and there is increased risk of antibiotic contamination.
• The current recommendations are NOT to attempt treatment of subclinical cows
(with cell counts above 250,000 cells/ml, but no visible changes in the milk) except in specific circumstances.
For example herds with the majority of infections due to Strep agalactiae and possibly Strep uberis may see economic benefits from treatment during lactation. This should be assessed, based on cultures and economic analysis, in conjunction with your vet.

Antibiotic Dry Cow Treatment

• Most cows will cure infections over the dry period if they have sufficient time
(minimum of 6 weeks) and are treated with Antibiotic Dry Cow Treatment. Note, some cows are less likely to respond – especially older cows with high cell counts that have been present for two lactations.
• Early drying-off of high cell count cows that are in later lactation may be a good approach to decreasing Bulk Milk Cell Counts.
than usual and you should consider a blanket approach to Antibiotic Dry Cow
Treatment (all quarters of all cows at drying off).
• It is likely that cows will be at higher risk of new infections during the dry period and the use of a Teat Sealant to reduce this risk should be seriously considered.

Culling – a final step

A small number of high cell count cows can have a significant effect on Bulk Milk Cell Count level and milk quality payments. Chronically infected cows are likely to be a source of bacteria for other cows. Culling cows with chronic infections helps protect the healthy, young cows which are the future of the herd.
• Although culling is important in mastitis control, it is an expensive option. Farm cell count problems are seldom solved by culling alone. Failure to prevent new infections
will mean that other cows quickly take their place at the top of the high cell count list.
 Candidates for culling are cows that have:
• 3 clinical cases of mastitis in the one lactation
• chronic infection – a cell count above 250,000 in two lactations with Dry Cow Treatment in-between

Check your Vacuum Level

One of the most often neglected areas on a dairy farm is the milking parlour. Even though it is used two or three times a day, it is often assumed to be working properly and operated correctly. But it’s dangerous to think that as long as the motors run and milk flows through the pipeline, everything is OK. This may or may not be true. The two major problems with milking systems are malfunctioning equipment and operator misuse. The problems can occur separately or simultaneously. In either case, the dairy farmer increases his chances of lowering milk production and, ultimately, lowering income. Research shows a high correlation between the incidence of mastitis and poorly functioning or poorly operated milking equipment. Mastitis is not a new disease. It was recognized and studied even before the milking machine was invented. Because the dairy industry became more dependent upon efficient milking operations, the milking machine is now used on nearly every dairy farm in the united kingdom. In many cases, when a dairy herd’s incidence of mastitis increases, the first area to be targeted is the milking equipment. The milking system can be adjusted or adapted to function properly, but other factors can contribute to this problem.
• Higher average claw vacuum results in quicker milking but milking that may be less gentle or complete.
• Lower average claw vacuum results in milking that is more gentle and complete but not as quick.
A recent visit highlighted a issue with and excessively high vacuum level.
The plant normally ran at 47 kpa “working level “
After a high incidence of mastitis in the herd the farmer required a milking machine test, on arrival the vacuum was stable with very little fluctuation; however the average claw vacuum was at 51 kpa
Nobody is saying you cannot milk at this level, it is important to remember the High vacuum levels and improper use of the milking machine have been associated with teat orifice erosion and hyperkeratosis. The development of teat end lesions can create an environment for the concentration of and colonization of, damaged tissue by a variety of mastitis pathogens. Increased new infections from Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus dysagalactia are commonly associated with an increase in or high level of teat-end lesions  is having on your teat end,

 

New Milking parlours & parlour updates

For most dairy farmers the milking parlour is their place of business for at least half of each working day – typically four hours – so no wonder many want to improve throughput or reduce time allocated to milking.
Changing a parlour is not a step to be taken lightly.
Choosing any item of machinery can have implications for unit output and profitability,
It is suggested the main reasons for altering milking equipment is to reduce overheads, in particular labour costs, or to simply spend less time milking your cows.
But extending or changing the layout of parlours can require investment, as more often than not existing building and parlour layout may need to be altered.
Others may see updating equipment as a route to improved efficiency
Just like any machinery, parlour equipment requires regular maintenance.
The need for an annual parlour check as outlined in dairy farm assurance rules; don’t forget this is a minimum requirement and there are no penalties for exceeding it.
When sourcing new or used equipment direct from suppliers, it’s important to get it right first time.
Once installed, and before any cow is milked, get the parlour checked by an expert.
Defective or improperly installed equipment can have an immediate and long-term influence on both milking performance and – more importantly – cow health.
As well as possibly extending milking times, the augmented risk of teat damage from too high vacuum, faulty pulsation and ill-fitting teat cup liners can increase risks mastitis in a herd.
Ensure equipment to be used, whether new or second-hand, is installed by a suitably experienced and qualified engineer.
To qualify the above!
A recent visit to a customer whom had a second-hand parlour fitted, had issues with Bactoscan and fidgety cows.
The vacuum pump was installed at the far end of a loft, the oiler was empty and the pump was running dry, resulting in an underperforming pump.
The Vacuum regulator was also in the loft and the had not been checked for some months, to this end it was clogged with dust and was hunting excessively, the cheap vacuum gauge in the parlour was not recording this irregular fluctuation.
The access to the loft was a rickety old ladder, causing some concern for safety issues.
The moral of this is Out of Sight out of Mind!
When improving your Milking parlour consider
A Tank room
A Pump House
A Wash Room
Milking Parlour.
Access to equipment should always be safe, secure, clean and accessible.

Check your Cow’s Teats

Cows with dry skin on teats can produce skin damage
The problem with dry teat skin is  more bacteria thrives in  the cracks and can be painful. It has been known for a long time numbers of bacteria at the teat end is the biggest risk for a new mastitis cases. Dry skin is also painful, and pain can block oxytocin resulting in under-milked quarters leaving the milking parlour. It can also result in hyperkeratosis at the teat end, which heightens the risk of mastitis by interfering with streak canal closure and can create a place for bacteria to live around the teat end opening.
Dry, chapped teat skin most often has weather to blame. Other causes can include
Wet bedding. Recycled sand or manure can be higher in moisture than other bedding types.
High humidity poor ventilated sheds.
Lime with other bedding materials. It has the potential to dry-out and damage teat and udder skin and so must be adequately covered with chopped straw or sawdust, but is very useful in drying-out soiled wet patches on cubicle beds and controlling bacterial levels.
Pre dips with high parts per million (ppm) of free chlorine. These will strip the oils in the skin.
Post dips with low levels of skin moisturizers. These are cheaper alternatives used  to save money.
If you suspect your cows to have dry chapped skin use a post dip formulated with the correct skin moisturizing ingredients for your cows. Most dips do not have the exact ingredients on the label find a post dip that is well formulated with a combination of ingredients that will heal your herd’s teat health problems quickly and completely.

Are your Cows Happy during Milking

A recent visit to observe cow behaviour during milking and visible changes in teat condition immediately after milking had been noted. The conclusion is probably related to a combination of milking conditions and equipment.
The milking machine was compliant with the 2007 ISO standard.
An examination of the orifice of all teats of the cows was made during the visit for teat orifice hyperkeratosis also completeness of milking was noted
During the on farm observations it was also noted that milking cluster removal timings at the end of milking increased agitation of the cows seen as fidgeting, unsuccessful attempts to remove the cluster by kicking during this period.
The milking machine is 3 years old no adjustments had been made to the equipment during this time .
The next step is to carry out a milking – time test.

Fore-Stripping

“What is the importance of  fore-stripping,”  Since the very first milk has the highest SCC, you may usually see a slight SCC increase if  fore-stripping is discontinued . it also aids in  early detection  of clinical mastitis , again contributing to higher SCC. “Cows with clinical mastitis that go undetected may also have a higher chance of developing chronic subclinical mastitis.

This practice should be done before attaching the milking unit  to help stimulate milk let-down, and increase milk flow rate. Some people prefer to fore-strip each quarter before the pre- dip is applied and the teats are wiped clean and dry. Others prefer to do the fore-stripping after the cleaning process is done
Both ways work equally well in realizing the benefits of fore-stripping. Several field trials have shown that fore-stripping will increase milk flow rate and decrease unit on-time. Some studies have also shown that the total amount of milk removed at each milking may be increased when cows were fore-stripped. Fore-stripping has the potential in many dairy operations to improve milk quality and teat end health, reduce the rate of new IMIs, and improve parlour performance.

I would suggest no less than four squirts from each quarter .

Autumn Mastitis

This autumn is leaving dairy herds struggling with seasonal mastitis incidences, Mastitis cases occur to varying degrees in different herds as you try to reduce the risk. However, this season, cases of mastitis suddenly increase, or in some low incidence herds they recur, in autumn,

Stocking density,Warm, humid weather, Flies, Environmental pathogens.

Autumn becomes a struggle  with high somatic cell counts and mastitis cases. These cows are exposed to the conditions above , dirty gate ways don’t help during  this transition period . Strep uberis, coliform  also e.coli.  environmental pathogens are  mainly responsible.

Strep. uberis causes both clinical and subclinical mastitis, that may be easy to cure or very difficult. It can be spread both in the parlour, during milking times and picked up through the dry period. Clinical cases can be very persistent and difficult to cure and subclinical cases can even go unnoticed, but in both cases infection in one cow poses a risk of infection to another cow; once present it can easily spread throughout the herd.

E coli is the most prevalent environmental pathogen causing mastitis in dairy cows.
It is present in large numbers in faeces, meaning that dirty bedding and lying in yards are big risk factors. E coli can cause a range of mastitis presentations, from a simple clinical mastitis that self-cures, through to toxic mastitis.
A “simple” E coli mastitis results after rapid multiplication of the bacteria in the mammary gland. This results in large migration of white bloods cells into the quarter, raising the somatic cell count and promptly eliminating the infection.

Coliform bacteria are normal inhabitants of soil and the intestines of cows. They accumulate
and multiply in manure, polluted water, dirt, and contaminated bedding. Research has shown
that coliform numbers of 1,000,000 or more per gram of bedding increase the likelihood of an
udder infection and clinical mastitis.

optimise cleanliness of the cows as they come in for milking pre dipping prior to unit placement may help .The warm, wet autumn increased wet areas around gateways and flies may be a factor, perfect for the increase and growth of pathogens

If cows are in at night , grazed in day , improve bedding of cubicles use lime to dry beds keep passage ways clean .Faeces tends to be looser, which means the cows’ legs and udders are dirtier, improve feeding .

 

OVERMILKING ?

Traditionally, the recommendation to dairy producers has been to “milk ALL cows as completely as possible at every milking.” This recommendation has been revised due to recent research and field experience. It is impossible to milk a cow completely dry; there will always be some milk in the udder even after “complete” milk out because she is constantly making milk.
Overmilking is a matter of concern because it may affect teat condition and udder health. In the past, it was believed that all milk needed to be removed from the udder to maximize milk yield. However, breeding for high milk yields has provided cows with a high alveolar capacity. Due to this, cows are more efficient as milk producers.
Overmilking starts when the milk flow to the teat cistern is less than the flow out of the teat canal. Mouthpiece chamber vacuum typically increases during overmilking and fluctuations become larger. If the vacuum in the teat cistern is higher than beneath the teat end for short periods of time, the reverse pressure gradients across the teat canal may increase bacterial invasion of the teat cistern. Reverse pressure gradients occur only during milking of empty teats (Rasmussen et al., 1994), and overmilking will therefore increase the possibility of bacteria entering the teat. Teat end health is also greatly affected by overmilking. Hyperkeratosis of the teat is often experienced in herds with long unit on times.

Adjustable Speed Vacuum Pump Controller

VSD controllers can meet or exceed the vacuum stability of conventional regulators if they are installed and adjusted optimally. However, installation and adjustment of VSD systems does require greater skill on the part of the installer than conventional regulation systems. “you have been Warned ” The reduction in noise levels achieved by VSD control systems is substantial. Noise reduction is achieved by reducing the noise generated by the vacuum pump (by running at lower speed) ( Some vacuum pumps are not effective at low speeds , drilling a hole in the airline is NOT the solution )as well as eliminating the considerable noise generated by the air admission of conventional regulators. This noise reduction makes for a much better work environment for both cows and humans. The energy saved by using VSD controllers is considerable, averaging 56%, with up to 87% savings observed on some systems. VSD controllers also reduce the starting current of large electric motors, which may be a significant advantage when operated on some power distribution systems.

Having excessive leaks from your machine will increase pump speed and reduce the benefits of savings and vacuum stability .

The Milking Machine and Mastitis

Some key performance indicators for milking systems and milking performance

Milking Machine
Average claw vacuum
35-42 kPa
Maximum claw vacuum fluctuation
10 kPa
Average milk flow
2.3 – 4.1 kgs/min
Use of manual mode of milking (when automatic detachers are used)
5% of milkings
“D” phase of the pulsation cycle
At least 150-200 ms preferably 250 ms
Milking Prep
Premilking teat dip contact time
30 seconds before dry wipe
Prep-lag time (time from stimulation to milking unit attachment)
60 to 120 seconds
Milking unit attachment time
3 to 8 minutes (depending on milk production) not to exceed 8 mins
teats with at least 75% coverage with post-milking teat dip ,Cover the whole teat.