Winter ready

Heavy rain last weekend and again this week brought home the reality that we are now in mid-October and winter management is almost upon us.

Ground conditions remain good on most farms but it wouldn’t take much to turn farms wet.

There’ll be more darkness than light from now on and the drying just isn’t there, so even small quantities of rain will have a greater impact than they would have just a few weeks ago.

Have sheds ready in case cows need to be housed for a night.

Check that automatic scrapers are working, water troughs aren’t leaking, gates are hanging and any broken cubicles are repaired. Use this time to take a step back and see how cow flow can be improved or how moving cows can be made easier.

It’s much easier to do these jobs when sheds are empty compared to when they are full. Another thing to have in stock is cubicle lime. Many farmers are now going for a blend of hydrated and ground limestone at 10-20% hydrated.

Teat sealing

On a lot of farms, it is first lactation cows that are the main problem when it comes to mastitis and high SCC. If this happens in the first few months of lactation it indicates that heifers are picking up infections during the dry period.

Many farmers are now teat sealing heifers as they find it reduces mastitis in the first lactation.

My take on it is if you don’t have a problem leave well enough alone, but if there is an issue then consider teat sealing. It has to be done in a meticulously clean environment.

Most operators use a turn over crate as it’s safer and easier, with many hoof parers offering this service also. Some farmers get the teat sealing done now, when the heifers are still at grass so they are in a cleaner environment than a shed.

Don’t forget that all herds are to use selective dry cow therapy this winter. If a herd hasn’t been milk recording there is still time to do one recording before drying off. In many ways this information is the most important anyway.

The vet has to prescribe the use of dry cow tubes on a cow by cow basis and having a milk recording completed within four weeks of drying off will provide good information and is easier than doing a paddle test on the whole herd.

Milk quality

On pages 30 and 31 we give an update on some of the milk quality issues that have emerged since chlorine was banned.

It’s a good news story in general, but high thermoduric and high total bacterial count is a problem on some farms. The only reason it’s an issue on some farms and not on others is down to difference in how the machines are washed.

The wash has to be hot enough and the correct quantities of product must be used. Most farmers get tripped up by both of these issues which results in a quality problem building up over time. It’s seldom that it happens overnight.

Thermoduric bacteria come from soils, so making sure teats and udders are clean before attaching clusters is good prevention. This is particularly important as weather turns wet and where cows are grazing fodder crops.