• A study of the somatic cell count (SCC) of Irish milk from herd management and environmental perspectives

      O'Brien, Bernadette; Berry, Donagh; Kelly, Philip; Meaney, William J; O'Callaghan, Edmond J (Teagasc, 2009-12-01)
      The objective of this study was to investigate the herd management practices associated with somatic cell count (SCC) and total bacteria count (TBC), to geographically analyse SCC on a national basis, to investigate cow factors associated with SCC and to estimate the milk loss associated with high SCC across parities. From the 400 farms surveyed during farm visits throughout spring and winter, a profile of herd management was developed and the associations between management practices and milk SCC and TBC were established. Management practices associated with low SCC included the use of dry cow therapy, participation in a milk recording scheme, the use of teat disinfection post-milking, a higher frequency of cleaning and increased farm hygiene. Management practices associated with low TBC included the use of heated water in the milking parlour, participation in a milk recording scheme, tail clipping of cows at a frequency greater than once per year and increased farm hygiene. The spatial analysis showed that the south of the country had the greatest density of milk-recording herds. Approximately 60% of all herds in the study were from four counties (Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary). Average bulk tank SCC increased from 110,264 cells/mL in 2003 to 118,782 cells/mL in 2005, followed by a decrease to 108,454 cells/mL in 2007. Spatial clustering of high SCC scores was not observed (i.e., SCC on one farm was not related to SCC on other farms), which is consistent with mastitis being a herd problem as opposed to an area-based problem. SCC increased with parity from 97,000 cells/mL in parity 1 to 199,000 cell/mL in parity 6. SCC decreased between the period 5 to 35 days in milk (DIM) and 36 to 65 DIM, and increased thereafter. Cows calving in the months of January and September were associated with lower average 305 day SCC. The rate of increase in SCC from mid to late lactation was greatest in older parity animals. There was a test day milk loss of 1.43, 2.08, 2.59, 2.56 and 2.62 litres (parities 1 to 5, respectively) associated with an increase of SCC category from <51,000 to >400,000 cells/mL. When SCC was adjusted (test day SCC/dilution estimate, and test day SCC + (-ß)(test day milk yield)) to account for milk yield, similar trends in milk loss were observed. Alternatively, adjusting SCC (SCC*test day milk yield/mean test day milk yield) to account for milk yield showed an increase in test day milk with increasing SCC category. The results from this study highlight that adherence to best milking/farming practice will help reduce SCC and TBC on farms. The results contribute to the knowledge relating to SCC through increasing the accuracy of milk loss due to SCC and management practices associated with SCC. The results in the study can also be used in the development of strategies to reduce SCC on farms.