On most farms, mastitis is most common at calving and in early lactation, so any effort to reduce the risk of new mastitis infections around calving is likely to be well rewarded, as long as the efforts are properly targeted and well done.
Even though drying-off is a very important part of preventing new infections at calving, there are still significant opportunities to manage the calving period (2 weeks before calving until 2 weeks after calving for each cow) to further reduce the risk of new mastitis infections.
Every new infection at or around calving has a strong chance of becoming a chronic infection until we get another opportunity at drying-off to remove that infection, so this is surely a time where "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure".
And how depressing is it to see a well bred freshly calved heifer that you have spent a lot of time and money to rear to this point, only to see her come into the herd with mastitis, or develop it shortly after calving?
We work with every farm participating in the Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System to develop a farm-specific Dairy Focus Calving Strategy as part of their annual routine - and we always find a significant opportunity to make a difference.
So what does a Dairy Focus Calving Strategy discussion cover?
At the start of every discussion, we discuss the goals for the farm in terms of mastitis control, using the Countdown 2020 guidelines as a basis.
Then we carefully work through six steps in detail - and it is the detail which is important!
- How to maintain a sealed teat end until calving
- How to manage the calving environment to reduce exposure to environmental bacteria
- How to manage the freshly calved cow
- Minimising the exposure to new infections after calving
- Achieving early detection & effective treatment of any clinical cases that do occur
- Ensuring milk is suitable to go into the vat and avoiding antibiotic residues
How best practice is implemented at each step will often vary considerably from farm to farm - the strategy has to meet the day to day requirements of that farm.
An effective plan will mean that everyone involved in dealing with calving and fresh cows will know exactly what has to happen, how to do it, and why it needs doing.
A Dairy Focus Mastitis Calving Strategy is a key component of the Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System. Each year, the strategy is reviewed to ensure it meets the current situation and requirements for the farm - because things do change!
For more information on a Dairy Focus Mastitis Calving Strategy or mastitis control on your farm, call the Dairy Focus office on (03) 58590706.