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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Animal Disease Center » Ruminant Diseases and Immunology Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #340821

Research Project: Non-antibiotic Approaches to Control Mastitis

Location: Ruminant Diseases and Immunology Research

Title: Remember the basics when evaluating milk quality on a dairy farm

item Kehrli, Marcus
item Timms, Leo - Iowa State University

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/14/2017
Publication Date: 4/19/2017
Citation: Kehrli Jr, M.E., Timms, L. 2017. Remember the basics when evaluating milk quality on a dairy farm. In: 7th International Veterinary Conference, April 19-21, 2017, Ufa, Russia. p. 7.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The number one goal on a dairy farm should always be to minimize bacterial numbers, regardless of pathogen. This should happen all day in all areas where the cows are housed (not just at milking time and not just the lactating cows). An overall goal for dairy farmers is to have the highest-quality milk with the lowest possible somatic cell count (SCC). An effective way to achieve this in a herd is to focus on keeping the number of cows with elevated SCC as low as possible. When SCC becomes elevated or clinical mastitis escalates, veterinarians and dairy professionals are often called upon to troubleshoot and evaluate on-farm milk quality practices and the environment the cows are housed in. We have many checklists and systematic approaches to evaluate these practices. When the evaluation is completed, we create a list of procedures that are considered good or properly conducted procedures and others that need attention. Sometimes we get too focused on the “needs attention” list (like wearing gloves). Wearing gloves may be an effective practice (and many support the use of gloves), but if the investigation on the farm shows there is a fresh cow problem, adopting the practice of wearing gloves during milking may not be the most impactful change needed for reducing the elevated SCC. Moreover, forcing employees to adopt a practice that has a minimal impact on the SCC obviously doesn’t solve the main problem, and may have deleterious effects on their morale and result in poorer milking procedures and higher SCC. While checklists are important, troubleshooting is often jumped into without examining the basics: • What problem am I addressing - is it a new or long existing problem in the herd? • What data do we have to help ascertain the number of animals involved as well as new versus chronic mastitis cases? • What pathogens are involved and does this new problem have similar or different organisms compared to past history in the herd? Keep in mind that bulk tank SCC can go up with no new mastitis cases in the herd and it can go down while experiencing new mastitis cases. One thing is certain, SCC will never go down unless existing infections or problem cows are dealt with. Too often, we jump to items on the checklist and make changes without clearly laying out the most critical problem(s). Mastitis math is simple: HIGHEST MILK QUALITY = LOWEST SCC = LOWEST # OF PROBLEM COWS MORE PROFIT = PREVENT NEW CASES AND DECREASE DURATION OF EXISTING CASES