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Have you completed a milk recording and acted on the results?

Have you completed a milk recording and acted on the results?

One of the tools available to dairy farmers in relation to mastitis control is milk recording, Padraig O’Connor tells us more. The recommendation is that farmers complete a minimum of four and preferably six milk recordings per lactation.

The first milk recording of the year for a spring-calving herd, with a start calving date of around the middle to the end of January, should be completed by mid-March or within two months of the start of calving.

Completing a milk recording at this stage will enable you to:

  1. Assess how the dry period went;
  2. Identify any high somatic cell count (SCC) cows.

Assessing how the dry period went

Page one of the CellCheck Farm Summary outlines the SCC figures for the herd and on page two, it analyses the mastitis control during the dry period / calving. There are three elements to the Mastitis Control: Dry Period/Calving table with targets included which are outlined in figure 1. These are:

  1. Cows that picked up infection;
  2. Heifers that picked up infection;
  3. Number of cows cured.

In this particular example, there is an issue with the heifers during the dry period / calving. Six out of fifteen or 40% had a high SCC on the first milk recording. These animals will need to be treated in consultation with your vet and the heifer management during the dry period also needs to be looked at before next housing season. The number of cows that picked up infections and the number of cows cured over the dry period was successful in this example.

Figure 1: An example of the Mastitis Control: Dry Period / Calving report

an example of mastitis control dry period calving report

The problem cow report

The second report to analyse is the Problem Cow report outlined in figure 2. This identifies any cows that were over 200,000 cells per ml. In this case, the three animals outlined below had a high reading on this recording. They also had high readings in the previous lactation, so these animals should be considered for culling.

Figure 2: An example of a Mastitis Incidence Problem – Cow Report

example of a mastitis incidence problem cow report

How to deal with high SCC cows

The best option for chronic cows or cows with persistent infections is culling. However, not all infected cows can be culled. The next option is to identify which quarter is causing the high SCC as it’s usually only one quarter. This is done using a Californian Mastitis Test (CMT).

Also read: Advice on using the Californian Mastitis Test

You may opt to treat some of these infected quarters, but this should be done in consultation with your vet. Carrying out a culture and sensitivity test on some of these quarters is a very worthwhile exercise to identify the bacteria causing the infection. The other option is to stop milking these high SCC quarters and allow them to dry up naturally.

Containing the spread of infection from these infected cows is critical. The best solution, if it’s practical, is to milk these infected cows last. However, if this isn’t possible, the cluster will need to be disinfected in a peracetic solution after milking the infected cow.

If the cluster isn’t disinfected, it has the potential to infect the next five to six cows milked with that cluster. Cluster dipping is one solution, but needs to be carried out correctly and hygienically with the proper concentration of peracetic acid and dumped after every six to seven dips.

Some farmers opt to leave these high SCC cows with the main herd, draft them out without milking them with an auto drafter and then bring them back in at the end of milking to milk them last. It’s critical to break the transfer of infection from the infected cow to the uninfected cow

A good milking routine is essential also. Having clean cows with tails clipped, wearing nitrile disposable gloves, attaching and detaching clusters correctly and applying sufficient teat spray correctly (15ml/cow/milking) are all important points in keeping on top of mastitis.


The first milk recording of the year is an extra job to be completed at a busy time of the year, but the importance of completing it in a timely manner cannot be over emphasised. Allow extra time and help to complete this job on the day of recording to ease the work load on everybody involved. The data generated from milk recording is significant in terms of managing SCC in your herd. Farmers that act on the infected cows early in lactation reap the rewards later in lactation. Don’t under estimate the havoc that these infected cows will have on your herd if no action is taken

If you need help with analysing the milk recording results, contact your Advisor, Vet, Co-op Milk Quality Advisor or Milk Recording Organisation.