Using technology to tackle herd cell count on a Co. Longford farm

Longford-based farmer, Alister Walsh, has tackled his herd’s somatic cell count through the use of technology – specifically the installation of a number of Saber SCC units.

Prior to the installation, Alister said: “Cell count was around 180,000-210,000.” However, since the technology has been employed, it’s dropped significantly.

“It’s well back down from where it was. It’s around 99,000 there now at the minute,” he said.

Outlining the benefits of the Saber SCC system, he said: “I find it a good job because I can pick up things there and then and you are not worried about problems getting out of hand.”

Alister goes further in saying: “I don’t know how anyone can milk cows without these units.”

Crediting the system for helping him get a grasp on SCC levels on his farm, he said: “Before I had Saber, it was hard to pick out problem cows and they would have being causing a little bit of spread to other cows as well. So I am just able to pick up those a lot quicker.

The quality of the milk has improved since I installed the Saber, just by getting those cows out of the system – the problem ones that just can’t be cured.

“I have found not all treatments work on my cell count. The Saber system allows me to find the cows that are not being cured with recommended treatments and I can select the correct treatment for the type of cell count that is in that cow.”

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 a digital box that completes an accurate reading of the milk to give the exact cell count in the parlour within two minutes of the cups being put on.

Saber’s Chris Murphy – the country manager for Ireland and the UK – explained: “We launched in the market over 30 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.”

Payback

Chris added: “Across the herd, this allows you to spot check each of your cows three-to-four 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 an 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. Click here for more information