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Is SCC rising in your herd?

Gráinne Hurley PhD, Teagasc/Dairygold Joint Program Advisor asks the question: Is Somatic Cell Count (SCC) rising in your herd? She has seen a noticeable increase in SCC across some herds within discussion groups recently. She gives reasons why SCC and mastitis cases increase in herds and more here

Elevated stress levels due to high temperatures in July/August did cause some increase in SCC in herds. Bacteria such as Strep uberus or E. Coli that cause environmental mastitis could have been picked up where cows were bunching up together around mucky water troughs or under shade during this hot period.

Act early and get a milk recording done

Whatever the reason, if you have seen a noticeable increase in SCC or mastitis cases you must act straight away. You should get a milk recording done as soon as possible to identify which cows have picked up infections.  If you don’t know which cows are infectious, whereby they may not be showing clinical signs of infection in the milk e.g. milk clots, then you are at risk of these cows spreading infection to the rest of the herd and suffering large financial losses. 

Benefits of the CellCheck report 

I was discussing a SCC problem with a farmer recently.  We pulled out his CellCheck report for his latest milk recording.  It highlighted in his 130 cow herd that the herd SCC sample was 320,000SCC and that 18% of the herd had an infection (18% of the herd had a reading greater than 200 SCC).  The CellCheck report also highlighted that because of the SCC infection this farmer was losing 61 litres of milk in the herd every day.  This may not seem too much but losses will be cumulative.  The farmer’s co-op report has indicated that he has received a milk price of 39cent/litre to date this year.  So each day, due to reduced milk yield of the infected cows he is losing 61ltires at 39cent or €24/day.  In one month the losses add up to nearly €720 and if this infection continues the losses will run into thousands.   The cost of infection outlined here does not include any penalties, cost of treatments, discarded milk, labour, veterinary attention or culling and not forgetting the stress it causes for the farmer also. If the farmer had not done a milk recording and identified the problem cows the percentage of infected cows would continue to increase as would the cost to the farmer.

Once you have your reports back from a milk recording – complete a CMT test or paddle test each quarter of the highest SCC cows from the Mastitis Incidence Problem Cow Report. 

Milk Sensitivity Test -It would be a good idea to get a milk sensitivity test done to identify which bacteria is causing the problem and what is the best antibiotic to treat the infection. 

Stop the spread of infection

Stopping the spread of infection between cows is crucial and there are different ways of doing so.  Some farmers have cluster flush installed in their parlours which disinfects the clusters after each cow after each milking.  This can be expensive technology but very effective.  Other farmers will do this manually – dipping the clusters into a bucket of peracetic acid mix after each cow after each milking.  This can be laboursome but it is very effective too but only where it is done correctly.  Make sure you change the solution of peracetic acid mix when required – if you use the same mixed up solution throughout milking and where it has become contaminated with dung etc – it will become ineffective and you may end up spreading the infection to more cows.

You might also like to read Six Steps to SCC Success For more on Milk Quality check out the Teagasc Milk Quality webpage.

Talk to your local Teagasc advisor or Dairygold milk advisor or more advice on this. Contact your local Teagasc Advisory Office here: Advisory Regions. Teagasc Advisors are regular contibutors of articles here on Teagasc Daily