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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Speed of Greater Concern in Herds with High Somatic Cell Counts

Dairy Pipeline: September 1999

Gerald M. (Jerry) Jones
Extension Dairy Scientist, Milk Quality and Milking Management
Virginia Tech
(540) 2321-4764

After evaluating 300 Dutch dairy herds, scientists from the Netherlands found that 73% of herds with high bulk milk somatic cell counts (BMSCC over 400,000) were managed by farmers whose management styles were classified as "quick and dirty," while 74% of herds with low BMSCC (150,000 or less) were managed by farmers who they classified as "clean and accurate" managers. Herds with low BMSCC implemented measures to prevent mastitis more often and practiced them for longer periods of time. These herds were smaller and had good records. The farmers paid more attention to cows and enjoyed milking. Their working attitude was precise versus fast as found in the high BMSCC herds. Low BMSCC herds had clean milking facilities (milk room, parlor) and a greater percentage of milkers had clean hands. Some practices that were significantly different included: removal of straw from calving pens after calving, and fixing cows in head gates after milking to keep them standing and, thus, allowing time for the teat end sphincter to close because it remains dilated for 1-2 hours after milking. Immediate access to feed will do the same thing. A greater proportion of low BMSCC herds spent more time keeping cow stalls clean. Some observations from herds with higher rates of clinical mastitis included: application of teat dip by sprayer with less care to adequately cover teat; thickness of bedding in the calving area was negatively correlated with clinical mastitis (meaning that little bedding often is associated with more mastitis); wet premilking with no drying with a towel caused teat cup liners to move upward resulting in hyperkeratosis (congestion at teat end or thickening of teat wall); and herds with higher vacuum levels had more hyperkeratosis. The bottom line is to implement a sound mastitis control program and stay with it, being consistent in use of BMPs (Best Mastitis Prevention), and paying attention to detail in making cows clean, dry, and comfortable.

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