New practices can lead to healthier and more productive dairy cows

MADISON, N.J. — As 2011 approaches, dairy producers may be looking for changes that can help improve cow health and profitability.

With tightened European Union export requirements on the way for dairy products, the coming year is a great time to set sights on milk quality resolutions that can help capture a greater return from a milking herd.

Like any resolution, milk quality improvement efforts must become a way of life for everyone on the dairy farm. Bradley Mills, senior veterinarian, Pfizer Health Dairy Veterinary Operations, offers some milk quality resolutions to help advance mastitis management programs and produce higher-quality milk.

Better records

When mastitis problems are detected, knowing the pathogens can make a big difference in successful treatment. Culturing programs and record keeping can uncover the root of mastitis problems. Pinpointing specific environmental or contagious pathogens can help select the most effective mastitis therapy and protocol to improve cow health and reduce overall treatment costs.

Treatment

Strive to make the complete cure. Work with your veterinarian to base treatment protocols on the cow’s treatment history; length of the infection; and cow age, health status and lactation stage.

Extended antibiotic therapy can help achieve a true cure, in which the bacteria are no longer present in the udder. Be sure the determined treatment and protocol are carried out to improve the chance of a complete cure. One resolution should be to fight the tendency to switch products mid-treatment and not finish the full treatment protocol.

Even if milk appears normal, it’s important to complete the full treatment regimen to reduce the likelihood of a relapse. Infection relapse increases the time milk is out of the bulk tank, as well as the cost of treatment.

Pay attention

Focus on your dry cows. Add a comprehensive dry cow program to your milk quality resolutions. The first line of defense for dry cow health is treating mastitis infections that are present going into the dry period.

Next, utilize a nonantibiotic teat sealant to provide a barrier against bacteria and help prevent new infections. Prevention steps also include vaccinating for coliform mastitis. By using a vaccine, you can decrease the incidence of clinical coliform mastitis and lessen the severity of cases that do occur. Be sure to also provide a clean environment with minimal bacterial contamination throughout the dry period to help further reduce the risk of new infections.

Keep it consistent

Increase parlor routine consistency. A consistent milking routine is key to producing quality milk and improving udder health. Resolve to work collaboratively with employees to establish and implement parlor procedures that help increase consistency.

Adapt protocols to appropriately meet the needs of your parlor and employees. Unless it fits easily into your operation, it won’t be done consistently. Make sure everyone agrees with and understands the new procedures, as employee understanding is crucial to minimizing procedural drift. Monitor mastitis events, bulk tank bacteria counts and spikes in somatic cell counts to identify noncompliance.

The veterinarian

Work more closely with the veterinarian. A veterinarian is a great resource when it comes to developing, implementing and monitoring a mastitis management program. Try consulting with your veterinarian more frequently to gain better outcomes for treatment decisions, parlor routines, milk culture records and management practices.

Your veterinarian can provide recommendations for appropriate treatment options and protocols. Additionally, he or she can help set up a milk culturing program and analyze the data to develop treatment protocols.

Veterinarians also can provide a valuable outside perspective of the dairy operation and may be able to identify areas for improvement in environmental management, parlor routines and equipment maintenance.

Set goals

By establishing milk quality goals now, you can set yourself up for successful mastitis management throughout the coming year.

Visit http://www.milkqualityfocus.com for more milk quality resolution ideas.

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