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Mastitis problem solved

COCO helps focus on mastitis

The Problem

Investing in Cups On Cups Off training has paid dividends for the Fish Creek Focus Farm of Graeme, Jenny and Shaun Cope.
An ongoing summer mastitis problem had the Copes baffled as they tried to identify the source of the infection.
A methodical investigation was launched to eliminate potential problem areas, but it was the knowledge picked-up by a farm employee at a Cups On Cups Off (COCO) course that came up with a surprising answer.
Having learnt that the teat stays open for an hour after milking, the employee queried whether the problem might be found in the millet and rape grazing area being used immediately after milking.
“Because the cows were going on the crop in the morning after milking, their teat orifice was still open, so they were walking across the dusty paddock and that was causing the problem,” Graeme said.
“The cows were walking across, kicking up dust with their feet and that was causing the infection.
“When we started putting them back on the crop in the afternoon, the problem eased up, but before then we were getting 10 to 12 cows per week, even when we were stripping the cows.”
The inflated counts – which sat around at around 230,000 cells/ml – were costing the Copes their milk premium, meaning each day that the problem remained unsolved meant less money for their milk.
“Because we are with Parmalat now, you have to be below 200 cell count. You get three free strikes per month and any after that you get penalised,” Graeme said.
“We’d done our three and were sometimes up to four, five or six in January and February. We were getting 10 to 12 cows a week even when we were stripping the cows. We’d treat one group of cows and then the following week we would find another group of cows meaning our cell count hadn’t improved.”

The Solution

Finding the solution to the mastitis problem – the cell counts have returned to a more than acceptable 120 to 150 – has meant the time spent sending employees to COCO courses has paid a big dividend.
“It’s the fourth person we have sent along and they’ve all got something out of it. I might do it myself next time,” Graeme said.
Tarwin Veterinary Group vet David Lemchems was brought in to help when mastitis started becoming an ongoing issue.
With the Parmalat premium price being suspended until cell counts dropped again, an investigation was launched to identify where the problem was emanating from.
“Graeme had spent a bit of money to get the milk quality up to that point so when the best milk price was available his cows were milking well and he could capitalise,” David said.
“We had to find it quickly because it is quite lucrative to get paid that premium for milk quality.”
While the eventual infection source wasn’t identified by the investigation, it is still valuable to see what steps need to be taken to find the root of the problem.
“Graeme submitted seven milk cultures that were inconclusive. One had come up strep uberis and the others were contaminated samples that didn’t grow anything, so that didn’t really guide us,” David said.
“He had been stripping the herd for three weeks, and when he pulled them from the herd and treated them it brought his cell count back to premium level, but it just kept coming back.”
The next stage was a process of elimination that saw changes made to potential infection sources.
Water quality in teat sprays was a concern, with tank water from the house being used for manual spray units.
Teat spray measures were double checked to ensure they were doing the job that they were supposed to.
With ADF cups being used along with the manual teat spray, the cows were receiving a double dose that should have ensured they left the dairy in healthy shape.
“They ticked all the boxes and checked they were doing everything that they could,” David said.
While the investigation was still going, the farm employees queried whether the post-milking grazing area could be the cause.
“A couple of the guys came back from a Cups On Cups Off course where they had learnt that the first hour after milking was when they are most prone to infection,” David said.
“They changed the method, putting them in a paddock first where they walked around looking for silage. Then they were put onto the crop which was the contaminated area. So they took the highest contamination threat away when the cows were most vulnerable.”

Programs Working Together

GippsDairy regional extension officer Karen Romano, who facilitates the Focus Farm along with John Mulvany, said the way the Copes dealt with the mastitis problem was a great example for other farmers to follow.
“First of all they approached the problem in a methodical and logical way,” she said.
“They enlisted the help of an animal health expert in David Lemchens and went about eliminating potential sources of infection.”
Even though the solution was found from outside the investigation area, Karen said it was the Copes commitment to animal health that made the difference.
“The Copes have sent four employees through the COCO course and, on this occasion, the benefits were really highlighted for all to see,” she said.
“It’s a great example of how Focus Farms can use other areas of industry education to build the intellectual property of the farm business.
“The Copes have become involved in Feeding Pastures for Profit, Farm Safety and COCO – with all of them paying major dividends for Graeme, Jenny and Shaun.”

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