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How to Manage High Somatic Cell Count in Late Lactation

22 October 2013

It is mastitis decision time this month for farmers drying cows off with high somatic cell counts, advise Irish dairy specialists at Teagasc.

High SCC cows should firstly be identified through an individual milk recording, milked last to minimise disease spread and strategically treated to cure infection. Late lactation is a perfect time to review what you want to do with these cows for their next lactation, and make decisions in preparation for drying off.

Firstly, do a milk recording in late lactation to:

  • Identify cows with high SCC that need to be targeted with dry cow treatment (DCT). Consider drying these cows off early, to give them the best chance of curing and to reduce the impact on your bulk tank SCC;
  • Develop a culling list of cows which have had recurring high SCC and mastitis problems and are unlikely to cure – consider culling cows that have had high SCC for two consecutive lactations; and,
  • Segregate high SCC cows. If it is not possible to run them as a separate herd, hold them back and milk them last. This will prevent them infecting other cows.

Do not use antibiotic DCT on cows which you are going to cull immediately. If you treat cows and subsequently decide to cull them, check meat withholding period before sending to the factory.

Finally, once-a-day milking to avoid a Super Levy situation should only be considered for herds with a SCC <200,000 cells/mL. Once-a-day milking can lead to an increase in individual cow SCC, making it necessary to dry off high SCC cows early. 

Dairy Herd Reminders

  • Lameness - foot bath your cows early this month and again towards the end of October to harden hooves and eliminate Mortellaro before housing begins.
  • Lactose – must be above 4.2 per cent, watch cow nutrition and overall yield up to drying off. Reseeds – don’t forget post emergence spray for seedling docks/chickweed, best time is five-to-eight weeks after sowing to protect clover.
  • Ideally dry off cows in the desired body condition score (BCS) for calving (3.0-3.5).
  • Allow 12-14 week dry period for heifers,second calvers and thin cows, and eight weeks for other animals. Scanning - record results onto ICBF database.

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