Dairy farm success with non-antibiotic approach to udder health issues

Higher milk sales are allowing an Irish dairy farming partnership to more than double its return on investment in a non-antibiotic udder health bolus system.

Second-generation farmers Kevin and John Walsh farm 300ac near Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, where they run a 150-cow Friesian Holstein herd on a spring block-calving system.

The herd calves from February 1 to the end of March, producing an average of 5,700L at 4.36% butterfat and 3.63% protein, with milk sold to Glanbia.

Cows are housed and turned out according to ground conditions but grazing is usually from March to mid-November. Although the average somatic cell counts (SCC) across the herd in 2019 was 111,000 cells/ml, a small number of cows were peaking at 800,000.

Historically, these cows would have been routinely treated with antibiotics, but Kevin decided to try a different approach.

Good return on investment

Pat Temple of Mayo Healthcare had introduced him to Maycillin, a bolus engineered to release allicin.

Allicin is an active substance in garlic and is used in bolus form as an alternative to antibiotics in both clinical and sub clinical challenges.

“Last spring we had four cows we had been treating with antibiotics but within two weeks of getting their cell counts down, the problem would be there again so we decided to bolus them with Maycillin,” says Kevin.

After bolusing, cell count levels reduced more or less immediately. “This year the average to date is 64,000 and the lowest reading is 21,000,” commented Kevin. He says the bolus offers a good return on investment.

The bolus costs around €30 a cow but when we were treating with antibiotics we would have had to discard €70-80 worth of milk so the product is a very good investment.

Cows with high cell counts were bolused immediately after calving this spring and, as such, there have been no issues with high cell counts in this lactation.

“We are constantly watching cell count readings. We use Maycillin in a targeted way; if we notice a cow in the parlour with small clots in her milk we give her a bolus instead of antibiotics,” says Kevin.

“The bolus gives us peace of mind and it means we rarely need to use antibiotics.” And in those that do require antibiotic treatment, Maycillin seems to prevent problems recurring, he adds.

“We had one sick cow a month ago that we had to treat with antibiotics because of mastitis but at the same time we gave her a Maycillin bolus too and we haven’t had any problems with her since.”

Kevin says he is pleased to have found a solution for maintaining udder health without needing to resort to antibiotics.

“If you look at the bigger picture, further down the line antibiotics won’t be as accessible to farmers as they are now so we are going to need reliable alternatives like Maycillin,” he concluded.

Further information

For more information, go to: www.mayohealthcare.ie; or simpy click here