How a Co. Galway dairy farmer cut antibiotic use with Maycillin bolus

A dairy farmer who was forced to cull up to 14% of his milking herd a year due to high cell counts says a new approach to managing udder health has kept cows in the herd and significantly reduced his antibiotic usage.

Padraig Mulligan and his parents, Pat and Nula, run a 50-cow British Friesian herd on 125ac at Ballygar, Co. Galway.

The herd calves in a nine-week block from mid-February and produces an average annual milk yield of 5,700L/cow at 4.25% butterfat and 3.65% protein with milk sold to Aurivo. The greatest challenge had been mastitis and this was not only resulting in lost milk sales but in cows being culled from the herd.

“Every year we were culling anything from five to seven cows a year due to mastitis,’’ says Padraig, who also works off-farm as a driver for Aurivo.

These cows had cell counts ranging from 400,000–600,000 cells/ml; one cow tested last year had a reading of 1.2 million cells/ml.

Quickly returned

Padraig was dealing with the problem with antibiotic tubes and although cows showed initial signs of improvement, the high cell counts quickly returned.

“The antibiotics would work for a short time then we would get flare-ups; they didn’t cure the problem,’’ he explains. “It was like putting a bandage on the problem to keep it at bay for a while.’’

Padraig calculates that he was losing an average of 70L/day in milk sales.

“We were always holding milk back because of antibiotic treatments,’’ he says.

His fortunes changed when he bolused high cell count cows with Maycillin; this udder health system manufactured by Mayo Healthcare releases allicin inter-ruminaly.

Allicin is used in bolus form in several countries as an alternative to antibiotics in both clinical and sub clinical challenges. Padraig tested all cows for cell counts before drying off and this flagged up nine with very high levels.

“One was well over a million,’’ he says. Those cows were bolused with Maycillin.

When the cows calved this spring all those animals, including the ‘millionaire’, had cell counts under 100,000 cells/ml, and they have stayed that way.

“I genuinely couldn’t believe it,’’ Padraig admits.

The herd’s average cell count is now between 80,000–85,000 cells/ml compared to 250,000–350,000 last year. Padraig reckons that had Maycillin been on the market earlier, many of the cows he culled over the years would have been spared.

“These cows had good yields, good feet and good fertility but we culled them because they had high cell counts.’’

He will in future bolus all high cell count cows at drying off. “I also keep a box in the parlour. I watch cell counts like a hawk and if I saw any cows with clots in her milk I would bolus her.

“Maycillin costs me around €30/cow but when we’re getting these results it’s worth every penny. I’m also using far fewer antibiotic tubes.’’

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