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Take more pride in tackling mastitis

08 December 2020

Mastitis expert Steve Cranefield is urging farmers to take more pride in lowering their herd’s somatic cell count. 
Cranefield made the comments at a Smaller Milk and Supply Herds (SMASH) field day at Tania White’s farm, at Te Aroha, last month.

White’s farm recorded an average somatic cell count of 31,180 – the second lowest among Fonterra suppliers’ last season. She was pipped by her parents Graham and Glenys Bell, who farm up the road and recorded an average SCC of 30,050.

Cranefield, who spoke at the field day, gave the Bells and White a big tick for handling SCC, produced by a cow to fight mastitis.

“They are some of the best in the country,” he told Dairy News. “There’s a huge element of pride involved; they know they produce the cleanest milk in the country.”

Cranefield says mastitis remains the biggest animal health issue in the dairy industry and farmers should take more pride in tackling mastitis.

He says there are a lot of benefits in keeping SCC down in cows – such as production gains and lower vet costs.

“Every time you treat cows, it costs you hundreds of dollars … financially it stacks up and production wise there is an element of pride.”

Graham Bell told the field day that it’s down to getting the basics right every time.

“There’s no secret, it’s just about doing a good job and paying close attention to detail. We love our stock and want them to be as healthy as possible so we look after them as well as we can,” he says.

“Getting the basics right through our hygiene practices, during the calving period and with our testing means we have a consistently low cell count where the milk quality is better and we have healthier cows.”

Cranefield says key things done by the Bells and Tania White set the cows up well for the next season using a combination of dry cow therapy and teat sealant on cows.

“Right from day one they are focused on mastitis: they are collecting cows in calves twice a day so freshly calved cows are getting milked straight away,” he explains. “Their focus right at start is on improving teat condition so they put teat spray on the colostrum cows before they milk them and repeat after milking.

“Right from start not allowing any spread of infection.”


STEVE CRANEFIELD says a new technology that provides rapid test for mastitis will help farmers improve cure rates.

Mastatest lapboxes provide rapid mastitis testing on-farm, with results provided to the farmer and vet within 24 hours.

Cranefield says Mastatest can improve mastitis cure rates in a given herd and enables more targeted use of antibiotics to combat the most prevalent disease in dairying.

“It’s about finding out what we are dealing with: not guessing,” he says. Through Mastatest you can find out what bug you are dealing with in an individual cow, and then decide what’s the best treatment.

“Otherwise farmers and vets will all be guessing what we are dealing with,” he adds. “We are all trying to make an assumption based on the season as to which bacteria are in the cows.”

Cranefield believes using technology like this is the future.

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