As cows enter into the final stages of lactation it is time to start looking at moving problem cows on from the herd.

This should be done in the coming week before farms enter the final rotation – and definitely before housing takes place.

Problem cows

Animal Health Ireland (AHI) is recommending that farmers look at cows that have had three clinical cases of mastitis during their lactation or have had a high somatic cell count (SCC) in the last two lactations, despite antibiotic treatment at drying off.

Cure rates for mastitis can vary depending on the severity of the case and the type of bacteria involved, so it is likely that if a cow has an ongoing issue with mastitis or a high SCC the cure rate potential is low and they should be moved on.

With costs now so high on farms it is important that cows that are costing more to keep are identified and removed from the herd.

A cow with mastitis will have an increased cost associated with her due to treatment and lost milk.

A cow with a high SCC or subclinical mastitis will also likely have a reduced production level due to this issue, and is then also less profitable.


Something that is important to note is that the right antibiotic needs to be used to treat cows.

In cases of clinical mastitis, samples should be taken and sent for analysis. It is important to know your enemy and to use the correct treatment plan.

Treating cases with an ineffective antibiotic is wasteful and expensive.

Getting the treatment right the first time is important not only from an antibiotic-usage point of view, but also from a cost point of view

In addition, AHI said the following questions should be considered in the further identification of problem cows:

  • Did any of your cows have a history of cell count issues or cases of mastitis, milk fever, retained placenta, hard calvings or chronic lameness?
  • What was the drying off strategy used on your cows last year?
  • Was the dry cow therapy method effective?
  • Was the administration of either lactation or dry cow therapy effective?
  • What is your mastitis case-rate for the year?
  • Are you carrying empty cows at this stage?

Cull cows

The next question for many farmers then, is: Where is the best place to send these problem/cull cows – the mart or factory?

That will very much depend on a number of circumstances, including prices on offer for these animals.