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Five ideas for improved milk quality

Pfizer Animal Health Published on 31 October 2011

It’s awalys a good idea to set your sights on milk quality improvements that can help you capture greater return from your milking herd.

“There is always room for improvement when it comes to milk quality, and small steps taken today can reap rewards tomorrow through increased production, higher premiums and reduced labor and treatment costs,” says Dr. Bradley Mills, senior veterinarian for Pfizer Animal Health Dairy Veterinary Operations.

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“In addition, progressing your mastitis management is part of doing what’s best for the health of your cattle and dairy operation.”

Milk quality improvement efforts must become a way of life for everyone on the dairy. Mills offers these ideas to help advance your mastitis management programs and produce higher-quality milk.

1. Keep better culture records: When mastitis problems are detected, knowing the pathogens can make a big difference in treatment success. Culturing programs and recordkeeping can uncover the root of mastitis problems. Pinpointing specific environmental or contagious pathogens can help you select the most effective mastitis therapy and protocol to improve cow health and reduce overall treatment costs.

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

It’s important 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 time milk is out of the bulk tank as well as the cost of treatment.

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3. Pay more attention to your dry cows: Add a comprehensive dry cow program. The first line of defense for dry cow health is treating subclinical mastitis infections 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.

4. Increase parlor routine consistency: A consistent milking routine is key to producing high-quality milk and improving udder health. 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 buy-in and understanding is crucial to minimizing procedural drift. Monitor mastitis events, bulk tank bacteria counts and spikes in somatic cell counts to identify noncompliance.

5. Work more closely with your veterinarian: A veterinarian is your greatest 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 science-based recommendations for appropriate treatment options and protocols.

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Additionally, he or she can help set up a milk culturing program and analyze the data to develop treatment protocols for your dairy operation. Veterinarians also can provide a valuable outside perspective of your dairy operation and may be able to identify areas for improvement in your environmental management, parlor routines and equipment maintenance.

By establishing milk quality goals now, you can set yourself up for successful mastitis management in the future. Visit www.milkqualityfocus.com for more milk quality improvement ideas. PD

—Pfizer Animal Health release

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