With tightened European Union export requirements on the way for dairy products, the coming year is a great time for your dairy clients to set their sights on milk quality resolutions that can help them capture greater returns.
“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 Bradley Mills, DVM, Pfizer Animal Health. “In addition, progressing mastitis management is part of doing what’s best for the health of a dairy operation.”
Like any resolution, milk quality improvement efforts must become a way of life for everyone on the dairy. Mills offers these milk quality resolutions to help advance mastitis management programs and produce higher-quality milk.
- Keep better culture records. When mastitis problems are detected, knowing the pathogens can make a big difference in treatment success. Culturing programs and record keeping can uncover the root of mastitis problems. Pinpointing specific environmental or contagious pathogens can help in the selection of the most effective mastitis therapy and protocol to improve cow health and reduce overall treatment costs.
- Strive for complete cure. Base treatment protocols on the cow’s treatment history; length of the infection; and 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. One important resolution should be 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.
- Pay more attention to dry cows. Add a comprehensive dry cow program. The first line of defense for dry cow health is treating subclinical mastitis infections that are 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. Using a vaccine 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.
- Increase parlor routine consistency. A consistent milking routine is key to producing high-quality milk and improving udder health. Resolve to work collaboratively with employees to establish and implement parlor procedures that help increase consistency. Adapt protocols to appropriately meet the needs of the parlor and employees. Unless it fits easily into the 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.
- Work closely as the veterinarian. A veterinarian is the greatest resource when it comes to developing, implementing and monitoring a mastitis management program. Consulting with your clients more frequently to gain better outcomes for treatment decisions, parlor routines, milk culture records and management practices. You can provide science-based recommendations for appropriate treatment options and protocols and 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 dairy operations and may be able to identify areas for improvement in environmental management, parlor routines and equipment maintenance.
By establishing milk quality goals with your clients now, you can set yourself up for successful mastitis management throughout the coming year. Visit www.milkqualityfocus.com for more milk quality resolution ideas and ways to improve milk quality.