On a typical Australian dairy farm, the milking process is likely to contribute about 60% of the risk of mastitis - the remaining 40% of risk being due to the environment, calving management, drying-off, culling and cow factors.
The milking process is critically important in the risk of spread of contagious ("cow associated") mastitis, as these particular bacteria (such as Staph aureus and Strep agalactiae) are only spread during the milking process, and virtually never in the environment.
However, the milking process can also significantly influence the risk of environmental mastitis due to bacteria such as E.coli and Strep uberis. For example, cows leaving the dairy after milking with damaged teat ends and/or open orifices are going to be at a much higher risk of environmental mastitis infections, as well as contagious mastitis.
At Dairy Focus, we have developed a unique tool to assess and quantify the risk of mastitis spread in a dairy during the milking process.
During a Dairy Focus Mastitis Risk Assessment of a dairy, every element of potential mastitis risk in that dairy shed during milking is assessed according to the industry standards set out by Countdown.
Each element of risk is then given both a numerical score and a rating of importance from “Low” to “Very High”.
The individual scores and ratings are then totalled to provide a "Total Mastitis Risk Score" and an "Overall Mastitis Risk Rating".
As the milking process is a combination of cows, people and milking machines all working together in the dairy, the Dairy Focus Mastitis Risk Assessment groups the various risk elements into those categories – cows, people & milking machines.
This allows you to see not only how each component of risk influences your mastitis risk, but also how each of those groups influences that risk - how important are the cows, the people, or the milking machines in the risk of mastitis spread in your dairy?
Because the scoring in this tool is a risk score, it means the higher the score, the higher the risk.
Therefore, the higher the Total Mastitis Risk Score, the higher the overall risk of mastitis in your dairy!
In this example, a real farm (with the name changed) has achieved a Total Mastitis Risk Score of 27 points and an Overall Mastitis Risk Rating of "Medium".
This is a measure of the risk of mastitis spread, but it is also a measure of the risk of having a mastitis or cell count "blowout" in the right circumstances. For example, wet and muddy weather might be just the "trigger" needed to cause a problem on this farm.
Not only has the Dairy Focus Mastitis Risk Assessment identified exactly which elements of the milking process are influencing the risk of mastitis, it has also clearly highlighted the relative importance of each of those risk factors, thereby allowing the farm to concentrate on the really important areas that need to be worked on to lower the overall risk of mastitis in this dairy.
From this, a plan was developed to address the key issues and lower the risk of mastitis in that specific dairy and on that particular farm.
They were able to get their Total Mastitis Risk Score below 15 points, achieving a "Low" Overall Mastitis Risk Rating, and they now know their risk of mastitis is substantially reduced.
They are now likely to get significantly fewer clinical cases of mastitis, and can go into high risk periods such as wet, muddy weather with the confidence of knowing that their mastitis risk is much lower.
Whilst we can almost never have no mastitis at all, farms with a "Low" Overall Mastitis Risk Rating generally have very low levels of mastitis (see "A new record low risk score"), and are often relatively unaffected by "trigger" factors such as wet, muddy weather.
A Dairy Focus Mastitis Risk Assessment can be done during one milking - and the result will change the way you think about the risk of mastitis in your dairy!
- You get a clear picture of what the mastitis risks in your milking process are
- You can easily see which of those are the really important risks
- You get a clear plan to deal with those risks
- You know that you are working on the important issues, and not wasting time, money, and effort on unimportant issues
Because each element of risk is assessed and scored, the effect of any changes to the system or the routine are then measurable. You can know whether you have successfully dealt with a mastitis risk, and you don't have to guess.
The Dairy Focus Mastitis Risk Assessment can operate as a stand-alone assessment tool for your dairy, but it can also be a very important component of a complete mastitis control program on your farm - the Dairy Focus Mastitis Control System.
If you would like more information about this unique tool and how it might be used to make your dairy "Low Risk" for mastitis, just call the Dairy Focus office now on (03) 58590706.