Culling Cows

Cows with chronic mastitis problems act as a reservoir of infection for the rest of the herd, they cost you money in treatment costs and lost milk production, and they spend more time in the hospital shed requiring time-consuming care – increasing your time. Cows that should be considered for culling include:

Cows with persistently high SCCs.

Cows that do not respond to treatment and continue to flare-up repeatedly with clinical mastitis.

Cows with infections that persist in spite of dry cow treatment.

Cows with mycoplasma mastitis.

Of course, other factors must be considered before culling (type of infection, milk yield, replacement options, etc.) but, many times removing a few highly problematic cows will yield big dividends on your SCC report and will be well worth the loss in the long run. Culling should never be considered a substitute for solving the underlying problem with high SCCs or increased cases of clinical mastitis on your dairy. Culling is just one component to a comprehensive mastitis control plan.

Can somatic cell counts get too low?

Can somatic cell counts get too low?

That seems to be a question I receive often from producers who are trying to achieve optimum milk quality.

Low SCC herds usually have low levels of contagious bacteria and limit the spread with good milking procedures and management practices. When these herds do get an infection it is usually environmental. These organisms are opportunistic, not invasive, meaning most animals that get these infections are immune suppressed or stressed, such as dry cows or early lactation animals. Low SCC cows are not more susceptible to environmental organisms, but clinical signs tend to be more visible and grab the attention of producers.

High cell counts cost money. The cost of a high cell count doesn’t just come from the penalties imposed or bonuses foregone when targets are not met; high cell count cows produce less milk than low cell count cows. A high cell count herd will also have more clinical mastitis. So reducing cell count can provide substantial savings – on average, reducing the bulk cell count from 250,000 to 150,000 will result in savings of around £50 per cow per year, most of which comes from a reduction in production of around 0.5L more of milk per day. So cell counts are a valuable tool which can be used to identify a problem, assess the cost of the problem, give a guide as to the solution, and to monitor the response to control programmes.

What is a somatic cell count (SCC)?

When the udder is infected somatic cells from the blood (white blood cells) move to the udder and into the milk to defend the organ against the invading bacteria. Without this response, elimination of mastitis, even mild cases, would be very slow and tissue damage greatly increased.

For an individual cow the ideal cell count is 100 – 150,000. Below 50,000, there is some evidence that cows respond more slowly to infection, particularly with E. coli, so they have an increased risk of mastitis. So as reducing bulk milk below 100/150,000 may increase the proportion of very low cell count cows, it may also increase the risk of clinical mastitis. Nevertheless because of the other benefits of low bulk cell count the answer is not to increase cell count but to maximise immunity (such as by minimising negative energy balance) and to keep the cows in as good an environment as possible

Water Troughs

A major study led by Cornell researchers reveals for the first time that water troughs on farms are a conduit for the spread of toxic E. coli in cattle, which can then spread the pathogen to people through bacteria in feces. The study was published Feb. 7 in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Water troughs appeared in our mathematical model as a place where water can get contaminated and a potential place where we could break the cycle,” said Renata Ivanek, associate professor of epidemiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the paper’s senior author. The hypothesis was then tested in the field – with surprising results.
People commonly acquire infections from shiga toxin-producing E. coli through cow feces-contaminated beef and salad greens. The main shiga toxin-producing strain, E. coli 0157:H7, causes more than 63,000 illnesses per year and about 20 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Though cows carry and spread E. coli 0157:H7 when they defecate, the bacteria do not make them sick.
“Farmers do not see a problem because there are no clinical signs in cows; it is totally invisible,” Ivanek said.
A vaccine to reduce bacterial shedding in cows exists, but the beef industry has little incentive to use it, partly due to cost, and the industry does not benefit from labeling beef as “E. coli safe,” Ivanek said. So Ivanek and a research team of 20 co-authors conducted a study to identify other ways to reduce the bacteria’s prevalence in cattle, which can vary over the year from zero to 100 percent of cows in a feedlot carrying the bacteria, with rates generally rising in the summer.
The researchers ran mathematical modeling studies to see if they could pinpoint areas in the farm where infections might spread between cattle. They found that water in a trough, especially in summer months, could heat and promote pathogen replication, causing more cows to acquire the bacteria when they drink. The researchers hypothesized that frequently changing the water in the summer could keep the water colder, limiting bacterial growth.
On most farms, water troughs automatically refill when they get low enough, and farmers can adjust the water levels so they refill more often. This tact saves water and keeps it fresher while ensuring cows still have enough to drink.
The group ran control trials in a feedlot over two summers. This involved reducing the water volume in troughs in randomly selected treatment pens and leaving the volume unchanged in control pens. They expected that reducing the water levels in troughs would prevent the spread of E. coli. Instead they found that it increased spread; in the treatment pens, the odds of finding shiga toxin-producing E. coli in cows was about 30 percent higher than in the control pens.
“Our modeling studies did pick up the right parts of the system,” Ivanek said, “but the mechanism that we postulated is the opposite from what we thought.”
More study is needed to determine why more water in troughs reduced E. coli in cows, but Ivanek questions whether the lower volume made it easier for cows to swallow debris at the bottom of tanks, or whether a fuller tank reduced E. coli concentrations.
The study will trigger more research on environmental sources of E. coli spread in cattle, Ivanek said.
Next steps include repeating the results in other feedlots, evaluating the effectiveness and cost benefit of using more water to reduce E. coli, investigating how seasons and temperatures play a role in prevalence of E. coli, and understanding the actual mechanisms that led to the results.
Wendy Beauvais, a postdoctoral researcher in Ivanek’s lab, is the paper’s first author. Co-authors included researchers from Texas A&M University, West Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University.
The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health and the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation.

What is Sub Clinical Mastitis?

Mastitis is the most predominant and costly disease that affects dairy cows. Dairy Farmers have been struggling to corner the disease for years, but it continues to be the single major issue for the dairy industry. The ability to spot mastitis early and do something about it can have a significant impact on milk production, milk quality and herd health.

When microorganisms raid a dairy cow’s udder this activates an immune response that results in mastitis, an inflammation of the cow’s mammary gland. Mastitis-causing pathogens can be contagious, spreading from cow to cow, or environmental, coming from dirty or wet conditions in the cow’s living area.

Clinical mastitis infections are those with symptoms like udder swelling or redness that are visible to the naked eye. On the other hand, subclinical mastitis infections don’t cause any visible changes in milk or udder appearance, making it difficult to detect.

Subclinical mastitis infections affect the dairy producer’s bottom line by reducing milk production, decreasing milk quality, and suppressing reproductive performance. Cows with a high Somatic Cell Count (SCC) indicative of subclinical mastitis on the first milk test have an estimated loss in milk production of more than 1,500 pounds per cow, Subclinical mastitis also risks milk quality, preventing dairy producers from getting those valued SCC premiums.

So what’s the big deal about a couple cases of subclinical mastitis? After all, you can’t see any change in the milk and the cows don’t appear to be sick or uncomfortable. Sure, your bulk tank somatic cell count may be higher than you prefer, but there’s not much you can do about that. Besides, when it comes to mastitis, you focus on what’s important — the clinical cases.

This approach couldn’t be more wrong. On average, mastitis will cost you about £200 per cow this year. And for every one clinical case, there are 15 to 40 subclinical cases lurking in your herd. (Subclinical mastitis is defined by cows with a somatic cell count of more than 200,000, but no visual signs of mastitis.) According to researchers, these subclinical cases may account for 70 percent of total milk loss due to mastitis.

Ultimately, to address subclinical mastitis, you must go back to individual cows and find those that need attention or require action.

Farmers generally ignore high cell count cows “If BTSCC (bulk-tank somatic cell count) is pretty good, I’m probably going to ignore a cow with subclinical mastitis unless something breaks
A prime example of when you could ignore a chronic subclinical cow is if her SCC fluctuates between 200,000 and 500,000 from month to month, but she doesn’t break with clinical mastitis.

Set targets with your team
Chronic sub-clinically infected cows should comprise no more than 5 percent of your herd
To help ensure success you should set up a team or at least allow one person to address subclinical mastitis on your farm. You’ll be surprised how much this will help improve milk quality and cow health.
Do not ignore Sub Clinical Mastitis!

Performance management on large dairy units

Some Dairy Farms are now moving into the realm of big business, they have several employees and if people are the greatest creators of value in business, then good performance management are critical for success. Employees must understand what’s expected of them, and to achieve those goals they need to be managed so that they’re motivated, have the necessary skills, resources and support, and are accountable.

Good performance revolves around regular, effective feedback on progress towards objectives. It’s multifaceted, not a technique in itself, and there’s no single best approach. It should align with a business strategy and suit the type of jobs in question.

Daily Routines of Successful business (The Health and Mindfulness Rituals of Success)

Most businesses preach that the key to success is holding employees accountable for their actions; to be successful is all about holding yourself  accountable. You skip the blame and complain game, and make things happen despite major obstacles.

Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth, with accountability being a major component of integrity.

No accountability, person totally unaware of failures. These are employees, managers, who don’t have a clue about what is required or the devastation they leave behind. Usually these people think they are doing a great job, and are totally oblivious. “why am I cleaning the beds Four times a day ?” they know the beds are being cleaned but don’t know why , simple but true .

Use blame and complain in lieu of accepting accountability. Some business people always play the victim, finding someone or some natural force as the cause for all their failures. An example of this would be finger pointing.

People deliver excuses rather than results. It’s easy for an employee to convince themselves that they would have been successful if they had more time, received more help, or had the proper training to do the job. Usually the real culprit is no action, lack of focus,

The next step is to accept ownership and responsibility.

Apply known solutions to predictable tasks and challenges.

Before you start assessing accountability in others, it usually pays to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror.

Effective performance should be frank, yet supportive , conversations that include ongoing feedback.

An example of poor management is not listening to employees when issues arise , the herd cell count has risen dramatically , this is a team effort on a large dairy unit , not the fault of one individual .

Latest Research from USA

The major aspects influencing parlour throughput: How fast cows enter the parlour How soon units are attached How soon peak flow rate is achieved after unit attachment How soon units are detached
Milking Phases The milk flow during the milking of a properly stimulated individual cow can be speculated as having 5 phases .
Phase 0 – Start-up from attach to first flow – cisternal emptying?
Phase 1 – Rise up from first flow to peak flow
Phase 2 – Peak flow: peak (plateau) milk flow
Phase 3 – Slope down post-peak, still above take-off settings
Phase 4 – Dribble waiting for take-off to function
Take-Off Settings
The ability to adjust take-off settings varies from manufacturers. There are two general settings: minimum flow before automatic detachment and maximum time before detach.
Because of the difference among the manufacturers The National Mastitis Council is looking for a standard definition for unit-on-time, peak flow, duration of time in low flow, and a standardized method of evaluating take-offs.
Currently, we use the following:
Unit-on-time Total vacuum-on duration (not dump-to-dump)
Peak flow Average flow rate (total yield) during the second minute
Time is low flow Total duration with flow less than 1 kg per minute
Operation of Automatic Cluster Remover
Decrease the take-off wait time to 5 second, and then make gradual increases in the take-off flow rates. If the maximum unit-on-time can be controlled, starting at 10 minutes is probably safe. Some manufacturers do not have this- facility Continue decreasing maximum unit-on time and increasing take-off flow rates on a weekly basis until no further improvement is seen. Eventually, once the proper functioning of the take-offs has been substantiated, the milking vacuum level can slowly be raised.

Latest News from USA

Federal Milk Market Administrator U.S. Department of Agriculture

2015 to 2016 Somatic cell counts (SCCs) continued to decline in the four Federal Milk Marketing Orders which monitor SCCs and report results, according to a report in the Upper Midwest Dairy News

The state with the lowest BTSCC was Wyoming, which had an average of just 125,000 cells/mL. Wyoming dairies included in the summary have had cell counts below 150,000 for at least the last six years. Michigan had the next lowest BTSCC average at 157,000. Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin were all below 200,000. Monitored milk from 24,131 producers
Maximum BTSCC levels for other countries include 400,000 cells/mL in the European Union (EU), Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Although there has been increasing support in the last few years for lowering the maximum BTSCC for Grade milk in the U.S. to 400,000 cells/mL, no changes have been made to the PMO Since the Mid-West imposed a 400.000 from 750.000 the Average cell count has dropped significantly.

I was glad to hear that one of the Scheduled Monthly monitoring of testing the milking machine along with monthly cow health management.

The Milking Machines were tested regularly at least every three months.

After milking care ?

When it comes to milk quality, many dairy herds emphasize premilking protocols, such as application of germicides, teat stimulation and drying of teats. This emphasis is warranted, many standard preparation practices help reduce mastitis and improve milking efficiency. But what about after milking care?

1. Post milking teat dip
This is one of the most important practices. Every milking quarter of every cow should be dipped immediately after milking. Teats should be completely covered National Mastitis Council Recommend over 90 %. This is more difficult with sprayers rather than dip cups. Teat dip cups must be free of organic matter.

Each time you start the use of a new barrel or container of a post dip, mark the volume level of solution and date on the barrel. Follow consumption of that and any other component containers regularly to ensure the rates are what are expected according to the labelled ratio of the final product.
On average, the amount of teat dip used per cow per milking will be 10cc = 10milliters.
A 250 Cow herd twice a day milking will use 5000milliters a day.

2. Automated detachers
This equipment prevents over milking of cows. This leads to poor teat health and increased risk for mastitis. Cows should not be milked dry, a cup of milk should be easily hand stripped after milking. Over milking negatively affects teat health and reduces flow. This decreases turnover rate and most importantly, increases time in the holding pen and milking parlour when cows could be lying down or eating.
Automatic detachers should be evaluated regularly, as with other milking equipment, and milkers should be reminded to rely on automatic removal of milking units and to set units to manual only for select cows, such as after a unit is kicked off., if the automatic detachers are not maintained, milkers might resort to more frequent use of manual removal of units.

Low Cell Count, High Mastitis incidence.?

After several visits to investigate an issue with mastitis
The milking Machine was Tested no issues.
Pre and post cleanliness was very good.
The teats were sprayed, 100% contact
The beds were sand, cleaned twice a day, re-covered once a month all isolated areas cleaned
Water troughs cleaned every other day.

A bacteriology test was taken the cause was Streptococcus uberis
These are environmental organisms commonly found
In manure and other organic matter, including bedding.
Poor udder cleanliness, inadequate stalls management,
And damaged teat ends also appear to increase
The risk of spreading S. uberis to uninfected cows.

S. uberis will spread to uninfected cows through environmental
Contact. Reducing environmental contact
With S. uberis is especially important in the early dry
Period. As with all environmental organisms, maintaining
A clean and dry environment for cows to lie in is
Of utmost importance. In particular, the use of inorganic
Bedding (sand) will reduce the environmental contamination
With these bacteria

So all the above were above adequate this was becoming very baffling.
However on one morning visit the farmer himself was milking and when a slow cow was being milked he would proceed to use the volume wash hose to clean the cows hoofs with no control over where the water was being sprayed, resulting in water dripping down to an open teat end regardless of whether it had been sprayed, it took some convincing to stop this procedure.

Water use in the milking process should be kept to a minimum. If water is used, be
Sure to only wet the teats and not the entire udder. It is nearly impossible to dry the udder
Generally, the Use of water in the parlour results in increased mastitis and higher bacteria levels in milk.
All Teats should be thoroughly dried with a single service,

The End result is a reduced amount of Clinical mastitis .

Have You Checked Your Temperature Lately

A recent visit to try to resolve a fluctuating bacteria count showed a poor technique with no resolution.

Without optimal cleaning and disinfection protocols, the milking machine is one of the main vectors to spread mastitis and causing raised bacteria levels on a dairy farm.

With your thermometer, monitor the temperature of the rinse cycle at the return line.

Rinse water temperature below 93ºF (33°C) will allow milk fat to deposit on milking equipment surfaces.

Rinse water temperature above 120ºF (48°C) will denature any remaining protein and create protein films. These films are colourless at first but develop a yellow colour as they build up. Protein films provide contact areas on surfaces where bacteria can grow.

Most dairy farms use a chlorinated alkaline detergent in either liquid or powdered form. Add your detergent to the wash water according to manufacturer specifications.
At this point the client was using excessive amounts of detergent, causing only frustration.
Increasing the amount over and above the recommended rate is pointless.

Why chlorinated? The chlorine increases the solubility of any remaining protein and helps to remove it with the detergent wash water during the wash cycle

The temperature of the chlorinated alkaline detergent solution should be between 160ºF and 170ºF (71° – 82 °C) at the start of the wash cycle. Typically, the wash cycle is at least 10 minutes, but this will vary with each parlour depending on size and type of parlour

It is important the temperature of the chlorinated alkaline detergent wash does not fall below 120ºF(48C) as it leaves the system (check this with your thermometer), because any milk solids either in solution or in suspension may be re-deposited on contact surfaces.
The Clients thermometer was reading 140ºF (60C) however the actual reading was 120ºF (48°C)
On the first pass the temperature had dropped 30ºF (1.1°C)

In all cases, hot water volumes need to be sufficient to allow wash cycles to run at least 10 minutes above 120°F (48°C) if this standard can’t be met, hot water storage volumes must be increased.
A new water heater was fitted and the first month bacteria count had a huge drop and had stabilised.