How one farmer reduced SCC by over 300,000 cells/ml with technology
Farming near Mountbellew, Co. Galway, Niall Dermody milks a herd of predominately British Friesian cows under a spring-calving system. The cows are currently yielding 25.8L/day at 3.4% protein and 3.6% butterfat.
During the month of May last year, the Galway-based farmer experienced a severe peak in somatic cell count (SCC), with readings ranging from 460,000 cells/ml up to 500,000 cells/ml.
Niall explained: “I didn’t know where to turn and I couldn’t figure out what cows were causing the problem. It was getting out of control. I had issues with E.coli mastitis in the heifers and I was putting the blame on that.
“I got hit with a €3,000 penalty and I was told if I could make improvements rapidly enough, I would get it back.
“It wasn’t until I installed four Saber SCC units that I got to the bottom of the problem. Instead of the heifers being the issue, it was some of the older, high-yielding cows in the herd that were causing the problem. I thought they were my best cows, but they were actually costing me money.”
Since installing the four Saber SCC units in his 14-unit parlour, Niall has witnessed a considerable reduction in SCC and it’s currently running at 167,000 cells/ml.
I got great results from the sensors. I now know exactly how the cows are doing now and the traffic-light system makes it easy to identify problem cows.
“I was milking 180 cows last year; I’m down to 150 this year and I’m sending just as much milk to the creamery.
“I am not dumping as much milk and the system has allowed me to cull my problem cows. I got back €1,200 of the penalty from the co-op this month and I hope to get the rest back next month,” he added.
About Saber SCC
Saber, a New Zealand company, has brought an innovative product to the Irish market to tackle Ireland’s mastitis problem.
The company’s Saber SCC is an automated, in-line sensor that provides users with live SCC results within two minutes of cupping the cow.
Saber’s Chris Murphy – the country manager for Ireland and the UK – explained: “We launched in the market over 24 months ago, simply because we had people from Ireland coming back from New Zealand looking to solve the mastitis problem on Irish farms.
“There’s massive interest in the product and people are buying the system because they want to save costs and stop dumping milk for no reason.”
Chris also explained how the system works, adding: “Saber SCC measures SCC by measuring the DNA released from somatic cells in the milk.
“The amount of DNA released is directly proportional to the number of somatic cells in the milk. Saber SCC uses a Californian somatic cell test to get an accurate result.”
After testing, he said, the system provides the farmer with accurate information on SCC levels. A simple traffic light system is also utilised when the data is viewed on a phone or computer.
Prior to milking, he said, the operator can input a set of parameters for SCC. Cows that have low SCC levels will flash up as green; those with high levels will present with a red light.
He also touched on the benefits of the system, saying: “It allows you to do cheaper and better dry cow therapy and you are catching the animals in the sub-clinical stage.
“As a result, you are not dumping milk and you can use less aggressive treatments to get your cow back in action, thus reducing your antibiotic bill.”
Chris added: “Across the herd, this allows you to spot check each of your cows 2.5 times each week and you are roughly checking 25% of your herd at each milking.
“The premium at the moment is 2c/L and if a herd producing one million litres drops its SCC to premium payable limits; that’s a return of €20,000 by just lowering the SCC.
If a farm is operating with a SCC of 200,000 cells/ml, it can easily drop to 100,000 cells/ml using the system and it will pay for itself in less than one year.
“The return on investment is roughly five months,” he said.