Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Farmers urged to keep an eye on somatic cell counts

July 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

Dairy farmers are being urged to keep an eye on somatic cell counts to maintain herd health and maximise productivity.

Pathogens build up while cows are out at grass – and this can cause a spike in mastitis cases and therefore somatic cell counts (SCC), says Rob Fowkes, nutritional advisor at QLF. The mastitis risk is particularly high this summer.

Delayed turnout meant SCC counts were initially low due to low pathogen build up. But the ongoing hot weather has made it important to take action to protect herds against infection as the sun and flies increase pathogen build up at grass.

“High SCC can be damaging to a producer’s bottom line as milk contract bonuses are likely to be compromised, and there will also be an increased need to treat with antibiotics. For this reason, it’s important to act preventatively to help maintain herd health and drive profitability.”

Ensuring dairy diets contain adequate levels of highly available zinc can help to minimise the risk of mastitis, reducing SCC and limiting the use of antibiotics, explains Mr Fowkes. Zinc plays an important role in the production of keratin, which makes up the plug at the end of the teat.

“This keratin plug traps any bacteria preventing it from moving up into the udder and causing mastitis. As around 40% of keratin is stripped from the teat canal during milking every day, it needs continuous replacement [and] feeding adequate levels of zinc can help.”

The mineral also helps to repair damaged teat cells in the teat – speeding up healing and reducing the time cows will be at risk of mastitis infection. Liquid feeds containing zinc are said to reduce SCC by up to 40%.

Because the mineral is suspended in liquid it is easily dispersed throughout the ration, says Mr Fowkes. Maintaining a good milking routine ensure teats are clean and disinfected before and after the cluster is removed is also important.

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