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  • ZISK

200,000 Somatic Cell Count Isn’t Good Enough

Jim Dickrell

An 11-year study involving 489 year-end financial- and production-record summaries from Midwest herds shows that a 200,000 cell/mL goal isn’t really good enough. The study was done cooperatively between Zoetis and Compeer Financial Services.

In the study, the top third of herds had a bulk tank average cell count of 134,000 cells/mL while the bottom third had a 284,000 cells/mL average. “The difference in SCC was associated with an 11-lb differences in milk production, increasing pregnancy rates and fewer death losses,” says Mike Lormore, Director of Dairy Cattle Technical Services for Zoetis.

“The challenge,” he says, “is to rethink your ultimate SCC goal—200,000 SCC isn’t low enough. The study showed that for every 100,000 cells/mL increase in bulk tank SCC, milk yield declines 5.5 lb.

“To increase dairy production and operation profitability, pushing your SCC lower—to 150,000 or even 100,000—is critical,” Lormore says.

Doing so involves three steps:

1. Keep SCC in check. Have a management strategy that actively monitors individual cow cell count and new infections. “Have protocols in place for identifying mastitis pathogens and treating them,” Lormore says.

2. Prevent new infections. “When going into the dry period, set protocols that are both tailored to clear up existing infections and prevent new ones,” he says.

3. Reduce mastitis risk. “Nothing lessens the financial impact of mastitis like reducing the risk of it occurring,” Lormore says. Use genomic testing to identify and raise cattle that are less susceptible to mastitis and other diseases. He says cows in the top quartile of mastitis-resistant animals need half as many mastitis treatments and have half as much discarded milk as cows in the bottom quartile.

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