Protecting milk quality during dairy expansion

Thomas Dwan and his parents, Eddie and Ann, were the winners of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards in 2014. Three years on, the Dwans now milk 140 cows and are still achieving exceptional Somatic Cell Count (SCC) and Total Bacteria Count (TBC) results.

Speaking at Teagasc’s recent Moorepark ’17 open day, Dwan discussed their expansion and how they have maintained high milk quality in the process.

“We only ever milked 70 cows up to about six years ago. The year of the competition, we were milking about 100 cows, 120 last year and now, this year, we are milking 140 cows.

Teagasc dairy
Thomas, Ann and Eddie Dwan, the 2014 NDC and Kerrygold Milk Awards Winners

“Since the abolition of quota, our output has increased a lot. Last year we sold about 500kg of milk solids per cow compared to 415kg of milk solids the year before.

“When quota was there I wasn’t maximising the potential of the cows; we weren’t milking for the full 305 days and we were drying off early.

“Now I’m into surplus heifers. I’m milk recording and choosing replacements from the best cows based on milk recording results. Anything that has an issue with cell count is culled,” Dwan explained.

Last year, the average SCC was 58,000 cells/ml and the TBC was 8,000 CFU/ml. The average SCC at the moment is 46,000 cells/ml.

Maintaining a low SCC

Dwan said maintaining a low SCC was a combination of a lot of things.

“Cows are given 60-70 days of a dry period and all cows get a sealer and a dry cow tube,” the Tipperary farmer said.

Dr. David Gleeson of Teagasc Moorepark commented on Dwan’s blanket use of antibiotics, in relation to the antibiotic issue coming down the line.

According to Gleeson, the dry period is the only time you will get a maximum cure rate for mastitis.

“You can make sure you have very little antibiotics going into the herd during the lactating period if you use dry cow therapy. The cure rate during lactation is very poor at about 20-30%,” Gleeson said.

Regarding clinical cases of mastitis this year, Dwan had no cases right through the spring. However, three cases occurred hand-running in one week in April.

Anytime I get a case like that, we dip the cluster in a bucket of peracetic acid after milking to minimise the spread of infection.

Giving a run through of his milking routine, Dwan said: “As the cows are walking in, they’re pre-sprayed, dried, clusters put on and then sprayed after milking as they’re going out.”

Gleeson emphasised the importance of drying teats after pre-spraying, irrespective of product, to avoid any residues getting into the milk.

“If you pre-spray you should dry, otherwise don’t do it.

“The same applies if you’re washing cows for milking; unless you are going to dry them you shouldn’t be washing them, from the point of view of TBC and thermodurics,” Gleeson said.