Weather impacts somatic cell counts

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Some herds have already experienced moderate spikes in somatic cell counts during the summer months, an indication that an inflammation process is occurring in the udder.

According to Alvaro Garcia, professor and extension dairy field specialist with South Dakota State University, if producers need to address a sudden increase in somatic cells during wet weather they should consider two main areas:

1. Make sure an adequate milking protocol is followed. Place particular emphasis on stripping (at least three squirts) to eliminate the most contaminated milk first, which is the one present in the teat cistern. Make sure that teat dip coverage is thorough and that it remains in contact with the skin for at least 20 seconds. Using clean, dry towels to wipe the teats clean is critical. Make sure cloth towels are washed properly with detergent and bleach and the temperature setting in the machine is hot. Do not overload the washing machine, as this will not allow for a good washing cycle. Make sure the drier is not overloaded to allow towels to dry completely. Ask employees to maintain the towel bins closed while not being in use to prevent manure to splash on the clean towels. Cutting a relatively small round hole on the lid through which the towels can be retrieved will reduce the chances of them getting soiled while in the parlor.

2. Cow comfort/cleanliness. Make sure bedding is replaced as often as possible, and that it is clean and dry. Deep bedding replaced less often is worse than more-shallow bedding that producers replace daily. Those producers that use recycled manure solids or bedded packs as bedding must take extra precautions during wet weather by removing solid bedding often. These two types of bedding are high in organic matter, and an increase in moisture will promote bacteria proliferation. In addition, manure-soiled water from alleys is more likely to splash on udders in barns that are not cleaned regularly.



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