Milk Quality

An ongoing challenge

Using bulk milk somatic cell counts (SCC), milk quality in NZ dairy farms is improving year by year and the challenge in this is to make further improvements as market requirements to lower treatment use in farming become increasing real.

Milk quality provides a real insight into cow performance; at the individual cow level these losses will range from 2% to 50% depending on the severity of the SCC.

In Alex's article, the focus is on both protecting the udder from infection around calving by ensuring the teat canal is sealed as well as treating infected cows at dry-off to maximise the natural repair processes that occur between dry-off and calving.

This year we took a small number of herds (10) and worked intensely with them on their mastitis cases.

The core part of the study was to culture all mastitis cases in the herd.  Prior to the start of treatment, a milk sample was collected by the milker and we cultured this sample on the day this was collected.

The advantage of this method is that within 24 hours we could identify the bacteria responsible and advise on the correct choice of treatment.  All cattle were initially treated with a penicillin intra-mammary tube.  Depending on the culture result the penicillin treatment continued or there was a change of product for selected cows.

The results of this work will be reported on more fully later in the year.

Within the study we also repeated the culture of the treated quarter following the completion of the treatment to determine whether the quarter was free of the bacterial infection.

This approach to improving milk quality opens a more rigorous discussion on what is driving mastitis in the herd as well as treatment choices and decisions that flow through to drying-off and whether individual cows should be culled.

If you are interested in adopting this approach please talk to your veterinarian.