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Milk recording - take action to get value from the effort

Milk recording - take action to get value from the effort

Dr Joe Patton, Teagasc Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer, looks at the uptake of milk recording on farms nationally and explains why it’s essential to make use of the results.

In the last 10 days alone, around 125,000 dairy cows in 1,112 herds have been milk recorded around the country. This reflects the very positive uptake in milk recording over the last few years, where now almost 1.2 million cows are milk recorded annually.

Milk recording takes effort and cost. To get best value from this investment, it is important that the information is acted upon once results are returned.

The average SCC of the 1,112 recently recorded herds was 153,000. Of course, there is a significant range both within and between herds in this overall average number.

A key question is, if your herd SCC was 153,000 at the last recording, does this mean that any action is required? While 153,000 may not seem a high SCC overall, it still indicates that there are high SCC cows present in the herd. The detailed herd milk reporting report will tell the tale in this regard.

By way of example, below is an extract of the Herd SCC report (available on ICBF HerdPlus), which is from a Co. Tipperary herd that recorded on May 24. The herd average SCC at the recording was 111,000, which is significantly below the average for the week. The report highlights that seven cows out of 145 had an SCC issue.

Figure 1: An extract of a Herd SCC report

extract from milk recording report which identifies cows with potential SCC issues

The first cow (1402) had an SCC of 6.7 million and was contributing 28% of the bulk tank total. In other words, this cow was adding 31,000 to the bulk tank average. Similarly, the second cow (1308) was adding 26,000 to the tank average, so the remaining 143 cows were averaging 53,000, which is excellent. However, the key risk here is that a small number of infected cows may spread infection over time.

What actions did the farmer take using the results?

  • Each high SCC cow was CMT tested to identify infected quarters.
  • Clinical cases were detected in two cows (1402 as expected and 1498). The farmer took milk samples for culture and sensitivity and treated cows accordingly with advice from his vet.
  • Two cows (1308 and 834) showed no visible mastitis, but had high CMT readings. On inspection of previous records, these showed as chronically high SCC cows, and the decision was made to mark the two for culling.
  • All the high SCC cows identified were marked with tail tape so that clusters will be post-dipped with a peracetic acid solution. This will limit spread of infection at milking.

These simple steps will help the farm reach target SCC of under 100,000 for the summer. The farmer intends to use milk recording in July to test the herd for Johne’s disease, and will use September milk samples for pregnancy diagnosis. Using milk recording in this way makes the effort worthwhile.

Also read: The importance of a good milking routine