Bulk milk disease screening ‘an important tool’

Bulk milk disease screening is important in determining what diseases are present within the dairy herd, Glanbia Milk Quality Control Manager, Willie O’Toole, has said.

O’Toole, who covers the south Kilkenny, south Tipperary and Goresbridge regions, said that it can give a good overall picture of possible disease problems, which can reduce the performance of milkers.

“It’s a good idea to screen,” he added.

Spring milk suppliers that dry off cows in November/December, and commence milk production in January/February, can have their bulk tank screened three times a year. Winter milk suppliers, that supply milk all year round, can have their bulk tank screened four times a year.

The cost for three screenings is €150/year and four screenings is €200/year.

O’Toole said that the benefits of knowing what diseases are present far outweigh the cost of the service.

In a recent publication, compiled by Glanbia, the diseases were described.

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)

“When not controlled, IBR can reduce milk yield by 250L/cow,” Teagasc Moorepark data has shown.

When herds are vaccinating for IBR, the lab uses a ‘Marker IBR antibody’ test. This allows for the ‘field virus’ antibodies to be differentiated from the antibodies created by the vaccine.

The above determines if the antibodies are there because of infection, or vaccination.

Negative results indicate that less than 15% of the herd are possible carriers.


Vaccinating the herd against Leptospirosis will control risk of abortion, infertility, milk yield drop and weak-born animals.

“When Leptospirosis is not controlled, it can cost €14/cow/year,” according to Teagasc Moorepark data.

Animals are said to be at particular risk of the disease when grazing. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease.


“All herds are testing for this disease, through tagging newborn calves. Any animals that test positive should be immediately isolated.”

“A positive test result can be the cause of vaccination or historical infection of cows within the herd.”


This disease can cause abortion, scours and death in animals. The infection can also be passed onto humans.

When not controlled, Teagasc Moorepark data shows that the disease can cost €112/cow/year.

Animals can be vaccinated around mid-pregnancy, the report said.


Spread by dogs’ and foxes’ faeces, Neospora causes abortion and reduced fertility in cattle. Teagasc Moorepark data suggests that it can cost €12/cow/year.

If there are a small number of animals affected by the disease, in the herd, these may be hard to detect.

Ostertagia (stomach worms)

Stomach worms live on the pasture and exist all over.

When not controlled, they can reduce milk production by €210/ cow, according to Teagasc Moorepark.

The infestation causes widespread damage to the wall of the abomasum. This leads to reduced absorption and digestion of nutrients. Animal growth and performance suffers.

Summer dosing should be practiced if required.

Liver fluke

AHI (Animal Health Ireland) states that Liver Fluke infection can reduce milk yield by 8%.

Due to the required milk withholds following fluke treatment, all animals should be treated at dry-off.

Triclabendazole will require only one treatment to animals, as it kills mature and immature fluke.