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Herd Health

Find information about mastitis, transition cows, vaccination protocols, working with your veterinarian, hoof care and hoof trimming.

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Your cows don’t talk, but they can be communicating some very important messages. Are you listening? The way cows behave can tell us a lot about how the cattle are handled, how comfortable their facilities are and if management is causing or reducing stress. It’s easy to write off a cow’s opinion since college-trained people have scientifically taken care of all her nutritional and housing needs. Cow-handling skills are not considered because the cow is confined in a barn and we can make her go where we want. Here are some reasons why we need to pay attention to our cows’ behavior.

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An important concept in dairy herd health is early diagnosis and treatment of sick cows. It may even be more important than the type of treatment administered. In lactating dairy cows, this concept cannot be overemphasized. A delay in treating a sick cow not only reduces her chances for a full recovery but results in milk production loss and may impair reproductive performance, especially if the disease occurs early postpartum.

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Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland or udder tissue. Inflammation is the response of the body to injury. In cows, this response (i.e., mastitis) is usually provoked by infection with bacteria. Mastitis can also be the result of noninfectious causes, such as mechanical damage. A poorly adjusted milking machine or narrow stalls and poorly trimmed claws may cause mechanical injuries to the teats and the udder.

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When dairy producers have a record of the mastitis pathogen profile for their herds, control measures and treatment decisions are improved. While elevations in bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) can be an indication of herd mastitis problems, the personnel milking the cows are typically the initial component in the decision-making process for clinical mastitis treatment. Strategic milk culture programs are the only mechanisms to determine which microbial agents are causing mastitis problems.

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A recent economic analysis estimated each clinically lame cow costs the dairy producer approximately $300. Costs associated with lameness include decreased milk production, reduced fertility and increased culling risk, treatment costs and labor requirements. Surveys indicate incidence of lameness on dairies varies between four and 55 cases per 100 cows per year and is dependent upon farm, location and time of year. Clearly, lameness is a costly disease and reducing its incidence will have a very favorable impact on dairy profitability.

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Have you tipped any cows lately? Cow tipping has become quite the rage. Yes, I said cow tipping! If you type “cow tipping” into Google.com, you will find at least 200,000 different websites that deal directly with cow tipping. Unfortunately, after sifting through all 200,000 sites, I did not find one site that referred to cow tipping as a way to reward a cow for a job well done. I’m sure you’ve tipped a waitress for a job well done. Right? But are you rewarding your cows for a job well done?

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