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How to stay in control of somatic cell count during the mid-lactation period

Don Crowley, Milk Quality Specialist at Teagasc, is on this week’s Dairy Edge podcast to discuss how to stay in control of somatic cell count (SCC) during the mid-lactation period.

Don first explains how the high milk price in 2022 was a disincentive to people to be ruthless with regard to SCC, as there was no real financial ramifications for supplying high SCC milk as the penalty was small relative to the high milk value. 

Consequently, Don has seen more issues with SCC this year as people pay for their sins of the past with high SCC cows having infected other cows in herds and now they are struggling to deal with the issue.

Don advises people to ‘know your enemy’. Following milk recording, identify high SCC cows, use the CMT test to identify the offending quarter or quarters and sample these to identify the strain of bacteria that you are up against. Knowing this will help you decide on the best course of action to take with the culprits.

In some cases, where appropriate and using the correct product, young cows may be treated with some positive consequences. However, older cows will have a lower success rate at less than 50%. Drying off quarters may also work in some situations and Don describes how to do this. In some cases, the only solution is to actually cull the cow, as they have a chronic infection and cannot be cured.

Don recommends that people don’t put cows identified as chronic in calf. This is to avoid the temptation of keeping them if they are in calf at the end of the season.

Finally, Don says that in lower milk price years, SCC management is important to avoid having to dry cows due to SCC issues in late lactation when milk value is at its highest and that staying on top of it now is the best defence.

Culling a few cows might be a tough decision for many, but the headaches that high SCC cause are not worth it; people need to stop the spread now by whatever means works best on their farm and ensure that chronically infected cows - if not culled right now - definitely leave the farm at the end of the year.  

 For more episodes from the Dairy Edge podcast, a co-production with LastCastMedia.com, go to the show page.