Milk quality mindset
GILMORE CITY -Ask dairy producers what milk quality means to them and they might list consumer trust, healthier cows, higher quality food products and more money.
All are correct, said Dr. Leo Timms, an Iowa State University Extension dairy specialist, who noted that these factors lead to one key question – how should a producer decide what a problem cow is?
“Since the No. 1 goal is to have healthy animals that produce more milk, you need to know what your somatic cell count balance looks like,” said Timms, who spoke at a recent ISU Extension milk quality workshop at Mark and Lori Janssen’s 100-cow dairy near Gilmore City. “It doesn’t matter what your averages are.”
It’s important to determine how many problem cows are present in the herd.
During periodic checks every few weeks, it’s also important to assess whether the problem cows are the same ones from the last evaluation, or whether they are new ones.
“If you can keep your new infection rate under 8 percent, your herd is doing pretty well,” said Dr. Ed Kreykes, a veterinarian from Sanborn who spoke at the field day.
If SCC levels are high, determine if an infection is present, added Timms, who noted that there are a variety of ways to take a culture.
“While bulk tank cultures can show if infection is present, they can’t pinpoint the number of cows that are infected, which animals are infected, and whether these animals are spreading the infection. That’s why I’m still an advocate of individual cultures.”
While many farmers think about mastitis control when tackling an SCC problem, other aspects of dairy management need to be considered.
“Irritation or infection makes a cow’s cell count go up and that means there’s a germ involved,” said Timms, who noted that operators of well-managed herds strive to keep SCC levels under 200,000 cells per mililiter.
“The goal is to lower the number of germs. What factors will allow the cow get more germs on her and what things will stress her and make her more vulnerable to infection?”
To answer these questions, he recommneded a series of management techniques including:
- Air quality. Ensure that air flow levels and ventilation systems are working properly and are correctly designed for the barn.
- Bunk nutrition. Providing sufficient feed space for each cow can go a long way towards reducing the stress levels of a herd.
A herd with lower stress levels will have better immune function, said Kreykes.
He added that ample supplies of clean water are also critical.
Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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