Maximising production and selling as much milk as possible may be a priority this autumn, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) has said.

However, it also said that turning a blind eye to dairy cattle with a high somatic cell count i.e. sub-clinically infected, could prove to be a very costly exercise.

In fact, sacrificing quality over quantity is a false economy, according to AHI.

These cows are not producing milk to their full potential because infection has damaged some of the mammary tissue, and to make matters worse will remain a constant source of infection in your herd.

Here is how AHI said you should deal with them:

  1. The first thing to do is to milk record the whole herd, and identify any high SCC cows i.e. SCC>200,000cells/mL. While milk recording might be seen as an extra cost, it can be more expensive not to!
    Without measuring the SCC of each cow individually, there is no way of knowing which cows are infected. One alternative to milk recording is to use the California Mastitis Test (CMT) on the whole herd but don’t forget to record all the results!
  2. High SCC cows should be marked and milked last to minimise disease spread. If it is not possible
    to run them as a separate herd, hold them back and milk them as the last row. This will prevent
    them infecting other cows.
  3. Remove the source of infection. Consider drying high SCC cows off early, to give them the best chance of curing and to reduce the impact on your bulk tank SCC.
  4. Develop a culling list of cows which have had recurring high SCC and mastitis problems and are unlikely to cure – consider culling cows that have had high SCC for two consecutive lactations, despite antibiotic dry cow therapy.