Hidden expense for the dairy farm

With mastitis occurring at a rate of some 30% every year, the condition is a major inconvenience and cost item for the dairy farm. The farmer has production loss, must call in the vet, provide additional care for the cow (time/labour), and spend money on medicines. Cows are also prematurely culled due to mastitis. Clinical mastitis can cost some € 270 per cow per year on a dairy farm. Subclinical mastitis (increased cell count, no visible udder infection) receives much less attention on a dairy farm, often making it a hidden expense. Subclinical mastitis can cost some € 140 per cow per year on a dairy farm. For a dairy farm with 100 dairy cows, this represents an expense of € 14,000 for cows with subclinical mastitis.

What is the origin of these cost?

70% of these costs are caused by production loss, 25% by premature culling with subclinical mastitis: A heifer with a cell count above 500,000 produces up to 5% less milk; a cow with a cell count above 500,000 even 6.5% less! For an average of 40 litres of milk per day, this is a production loss of 2.6 litres per day and 949 litres per year. At a milk price of 33 cents per litre (Europe), this means a loss of € 313.17 per year for a single cow. The premature culling of a cow costs the farmer between € 500 and € 1000 per culled cow.

*Source: Sjouke Jacobsen/M-team (Ghent University) -27-11-2018

Roadmap treatment of subclinical mastitis

So it is definitely worthwhile to treat subclinical mastitis at a dairy farm as well. We propose the following step-by-step plan for the treatment of subclinical mastitis:

  1. Assess the dry period: Is the approach working? Do cows that enter their dry period with an increased cell count come out with a low cell count? Are there cows that enter their dry period with a low cell count that come out with an increased cell count? If necessary, adjust the drying-off protocol and use a good treatment when the animals at the moment of drying off, such as Cloxamas Dry cow, possibly supplemented with a teat sealer to seal the teat.
  2. Select 10 cows with an increased cell count. These can be determined using the MPR (Milk Production Registration) register of the dairy farm. It is often very tempting to choose the older cows with a sky-high cell count, but these are often chronic cases and not interesting when it comes to the result you want to establish. Take young (preferably just after calving) cows that have a cell count between 500,000 and 1,000,000 cells per litre of milk. If there is no MPR register at the dairy farm, cows can be tracked down using the CMT test.
  3. Carry out a CMT test on the selected cows and note which quarter shows an elevated cell count.
  4. Take a milk sample from the cows with a positive CMT test. Only take a milk sample from the quarter that was abnormal.
  5. Place the milk samples in the freezer overnight. S. Aureus is often intracellular, and the cells are destroyed when they are frozen, which makes the chance of finding S. aureus greater.
  6. Analyse the results.
    1. When environmentally-related bacteria are found, action can be taken in the areas of hygiene (stall, mattresses) and immune status, and the teats can be dipped after milking to give them a...

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