Producers urged to keep an eye on somatic cell counts

06 Jul 2018

As we enter a high-risk mastitis period, producers are being reminded to keep a close eye on somatic cell counts to maintain herd health and maximise productivity.

“When cows are out at grass, pathogens build-up and this can cause a spike in mastitis cases and, therefore, somatic cell counts,” says QLF’s Rob Fowkes.

“Turnout was delayed this year and, until now, we have seen low counts due to low pathogen build up. But, as we enter a period of hot weather, it will be critical to take steps to protect herds against infection.

Preventative action

“High somatic cell counts can damage the bottom line. Not only are milk contract bonuses likely to be compromised, but there could also be an increased need to treat with antibiotics,” adds Mr Fowkes. “So it’s important to take preventative action to help maintain udder health and drive profitability,” he says.  

Ensuring that dairy diets contain adequate levels of highly available zinc can help to minimise the risk of mastitis, reducing somatic cell counts and limiting the use of antibiotics.

Keratin plug

“Zinc plays an important role in the production of keratin, which makes up the plug at the end of the teat. This keratin plug traps bacteria and prevents it from moving up into the udder and causing mastitis,” he says.

“Around 40% of keratin is stripped from the teat canal during milking each day, so it needs continuous replacement. Feeding adequate levels of zinc can help this process.”

Mr Fowkes adds that, nutrition aside, it’s also important to maintain a good milking routine and ensure that teats are cleaned and disinfected before and after cluster removal.