Reducing mastitis during the dry period

Exploring the source of mastitis at Ninezergh Farm following a spike in cell count in early lactation identified an issue with the dry cow environment and highlighted potential improvements for next season.

Vet Dr James Breen joined Adrian Bland who owns the autumn calving herd at Ninezergh Farm, and examined the milk recording data to identify the mastitis patterns and where to target changes.

Ninezergh Farm update and current situation

  • After a dry summer of paddock grazing, production was down slightly on previous years
  • Calving started in the middle of August and cell counts had slowly crept up until end of October
  • 44% of cows are 4th lactation and above
  • Maize was covered earlier in the year and fertilizer applied to increase the protein level

James Breen’s assessment of mastitis at the farm

  • Most infections will get better during the dry period so it’s better to focus on prevention to stop cows becoming infected again
  • Environmental mastitis infection patterns are the most common – in housing, parlour and paddocks
  • Every farm situation is different and requires a different set of control measures, so we need to focus on where the patterns of new infections come from
  • Ideally, we need individual cow somatic cell count data, but Adrian had gone through a period of not milk recording
  • Adrian did a recording in mid-October, which showed cows and heifers calving in with high cell counts suggested something occurred during the dry period

Dry cow management at Ninezergh Farm

  • The last three weeks prior to calving are spent in a 1ha paddock close to the yard where they are fed TMR.
  • The same paddock is used for the whole season and at one point was stocked with 38 cows compared with only 20 or so in the past. This was due to a tightening of the block through improvements in fertility.
  • James suggested that stocking density at pasture could be the source of the issue and research had shown that moving cows around was better than set-stocking
  • Adrian plans to use a cubicle shed adjacent to the paddock next year and then turn cows out to calve outside.

Watch the reducing mastitis during the dry period webinar

Find out more about mastitis in dairy cows

Learn more about Ninezergh Farm

Watch the reducing mastitis in the dry period webinar