Huge drop in clinical mastitis

Taking part in a regional project has paid off for a Bay of Plenty farm, with clinical mastitis rates dropping by 84 percent - giving other farmers encouragement that mastitis can improve on their farms too.

The project, led by DairyNZ developer Phillipa Hedley, is conducted by Bay of Plenty Focus on Dairying (BOPFOD), a farmer action group which initiates projects on critical issues facing dairy farmers within the eastern Bay of Plenty. Doug and Beth Leeder’s Opotiki farm is one of eight case study farms where BOPFOD provides support to reduce the incidence of mastitis and progress is reported to farmers in the region.

The Leeders, who farm 630 cows and joined the project for the 2010/11 season, have seen a significant reduction in bulk milk somatic cell count (BMSCC) from an average of 297,000 in 2009/10 to 181,000 in 2010/11, with a further reduction in clinical cases from 242 to 39 treatments. Estimates suggest this could save the Leeders up to $46,800.

The improvement looks set to continue with no clinical cases and a 120,000 BMSCC with 63 percent of cows calved for 2011/2012.

Support was provided by mastitis experts Steve Cranefield and Adrian Joe from PureMilk. The local veterinarian clinics and farm consultants also provided ongoing advice in-between PureMilk’s visits. In 2009/10, four farms with low BMSCC were also studied by Alan Fergusson from Bay Vets and farm consultant Selwyn Beynon, to identify the key factors for achieving a low BMSCC.

The key driver to improving mastitis was found to be the motivation and attitude by the owner and staff.

DairyNZ consulting officer for Whakatane, Cameron Bierre, says the positive results are good for the region. “There is no reason why the success the Leeders achieved can’t be mirrored by other farmers in the area, by putting management practices in place that are followed by everyone on the team,” says Cameron.

“Mastitis can be reduced as it is a management disease not an infectious disease. BOPFOD helped identify that the level to which it is controlled is largely driven by the attitude of the owner and by the motivation and stockmanship skills of the person milking the cows.

“Mastitis reduction for the 2012 season starts now. Work with a trusted expert to develop a planned approach to reduce mastitis.”

The Leeders’ farm manager Cameron Mitchell says the hard work paid off.

“The reduction took real dedication and focus, especially around management of the colostrum cows,” says Cameron.

Factors that helped reduce cases of mastitis included:

  1. The owner and staff milking the cows are driven to reduce BMSCC and are focused on mastitis
  2. A low trigger level is set for when to take action in actively finding mastitis cases (e.g BMSCC >120,000 or a jump in BMSCC of 20,000)
  3. Teat spraying - use of emollient, attention to full coverage and mixing ratios
  4. Aggressive approach to culling clinical cases - if treated more than twice, the cow is culled
  5. Having the resources to correct milking machine issues, such as cup alignment.