With milk prices on a downward slope this spring, it’s more important than ever not to dump money down the drain this summer.

Keeping cattle healthy and protected from the threat of mastitis can be extremely difficult, especially during the summer months.  Heat, humidity and other factors can make managing the potential for pathogenic bacteria even more difficult. Poor practices that might be tolerated during cooler parts of the year hold minimal to no forgiveness during the warmer months.

Roger Scaletti, one of Alltech’s dairy experts in milk quality, provides five areas that can keep dairy herds on the right path for peak productivity and assist in preventing instances of mastitis:

  • Parlor routine can be very often overlooked, as simply getting cows milked two to three times a day can be a feat in itself.  Wearing gloves, making sure there is adequate predip coverage and keeping in mind the contact time of predip before it is wiped off can have a significant impact.  Milking clean, dry teats is the name of the game, and all employees should be working toward that common goal.
  • The environment cattle are housed in can also be a factor that can play a role in poor milk quality.  Are cows housed in a mastitis infection yard, or are they in a well ventilated, dry area, with minimal contact to some of the key mastitis-causing bacteria? 
  • When purchasing cattle, what kind of screening takes place before allowing these animals into your herd?  Assessing milk culture and production records, as well as quarantining the animals before allowing them the ability to infect your entire herd, can help to minimize instances of introducing a new infection to your herd. 
  • Teat end health is critical when it comes to avoiding mastitis causing bacteria.  Milking equipment should be serviced routinely, as equipment not performing properly can cause teat end problems.  Using a five- point scoring system can help to analyze the condition of teat ends, as well as ensuring that the bacteria-blocking keratin plug is able to fulfill its responsibilities.  Teat ends should maintain a smooth structure, avoiding any lesions or fraying, as these rough surfaces can more easily allow bacteria to enter the gland.
  • Nutrition and the use of organic trace minerals can also play a key role in milk quality and a huge part in managing infections before they even occur.  Manganese and zinc have shown to help herds maintain a low somatic cell and bacteria count. Copper supplementation is effective in reducing the severity of an already commenced infection and returning the animal more quickly to normal. Organic selenium acts on a cellular level increasing the defense efficiency of immune cells even in non-immunocompromised animals, positively impacting ongoing infections and helping to prevent new ones. Recent field research shows that producers can feed substantially lower amounts of organic trace minerals than the inorganic alternative and get a similar, if not better, performance in dairy cows.

This year, Alltech has continued their Milk Quality and Udder Health workshop series across North America, with recent stops held in New York and Vermont as well as at Alltech’s Alexandria mineral plant in Ontario, Canada. The workshop includes informative presentations, guided plant tours and an udder dissection demonstration as well as the latest information on technologies to improve herd health, milk production and quality while reducing environmental impact. The workshops have also been held in Latin America and Europe.

For more information on the Alltech Mineral Management program or to get more information on the workshops, please contact [email protected].