How To Lower Your Dairy Herd`s Somatic Cell Counts

One of the great benefits of crossbreeding and absorption crossing with Fleckvieh Genetics, is reduced somatic cell counts in milk production. Positive changes can be made with crossbreeding to reduce the impact of elevated somatic cell counts.

Less Cases of Clinical Mastitis

Reduction in somatic cell counts will lead to less cases of clinical mastitis and reduction in penalties that may be in place for high bulk tank somatic cell counts. Clinical mastitis is a common disease in dairy cows.

The Canadian Vet Journal – Volume 39, January 1998: “Approximately 1 in 5 cow lactations have at least 1 episode of clinical mastitis. There is, however, considerable variation in the incidence of clinical mastitis among farms. The majority of 1st cases of clinical mastitis occur early in lactation, and the risk of clinical mastitis increases with increasing parity. Environmental, contagious, and minor pathogens were all associated with cases of clinical mastitis.

It is of the utmost importance to have cow udder quality at its highest. Teat anatomy and milking hygiene as well as a healthy cow above this all important udder contribute to lower somatic cell counts and lower incidences of mastitis. Other factors like nutrition, management and case detection and treatment play into this.

Teat Anatomy and Lactation Stress

Of particular interest to this author however is teat anatomy, lactation stress on the mammary system and immune system stress.

Would you not agree, that an animal under metabolic stress, such as subclinical or even clinical ketosis, an animal struggling to keep its body condition during lactation is under extreme stress? This taxes its immune system and, when seen at slaughter, shows up in physically reactive and enlarged local and regional lymph nodes. The author made these observations in countless Holstein Friesen carcasses.

The Risks Of Steep Lactation Curves

Interestingly, the lactation phase of Holstein Friesen, when plotted out of a graph of time versus milk volume produced per day, shows a steep ascend in milk volume – with a steady decline in the latter two thirds of the lactation. This places a lot of stress on the cow metabolically as well as on the teat that the milk pours out of.

This teat and associated mammary structure is stretched significantly and damaged. The damage is a larger teat canal which ends up being a portal of entry for bacteria. Later lactations as described in above studies show higher incidences of mastitis because of teat damage.

How To Reduce Clinical Mastitis in Dairy Farms

Three things that need to be addressed:

  • Excessive metabolic stress
  • immune system stress
  • excessive rapid onset physical stress on mammary structures

One can reduce all factors by choosing an animal that has more muscling and substance – an animal that, because of more body glycogen reserves, has more resistance to lactation demands and an animal that exhibits a flat slowly ascending and descending 300 day lactation curve.

This decreases the risk of trauma to the teat anatomy and allows adaptation to lactation and also reduces incidences of drying up repeatedly.

Farm after farm that started crossbreeding with Fleckvieh have exerienced this benefit.

Ultimately a production decision for the farmer, but the manager will see less labor, less sick cow costs, less wasted milk. The consumer will feel greater food safety and animal comfort and welfare.