At the Illinois Dairy Summit, held earlier this year, a local dairy producer discussed milk quality and how he addresses it in his day-to-day farm operations. He gave several tips on what he does to reduce somatic cell counts and the incidence of mastitis.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

Bill Deutsch milks 150 cows at Deutsch’s Dairy in Sycamore, Illinois. His mixed herd of Holstein and Brown Swiss is milked in a parallel parlor and has a somatic cell count between 100,000 and 150,000.

Bill Deutsch

1. Good coverage

He uses foamers to make sure the teat is covered well in order to kill germs. His teat preparation procedure includes foam first, strip, foam again, leave that, wipe with individual paper towel and attach. Deutsch said there are a lot of different techniques that can be used, but the important thing is the teat is clean. “I tell my high school help, ‘I want it clean enough that you can lick it like an ice cream cone, because whatever you don’t take off of there goes into my milk,’” he said.

Deutsch also wants good coverage with post-dip to kill germs and maintain teat condition. In winter, he uses a teat dip with a skin conditioner. When the temperature falls below 20°F, he’ll switch to a different teat dip to prevent the freezing of teats.

2. Maintain a clean environment

He converted a freestall barn with mattresses and sawdust to a bedding pack for elderly cows. He watches stocking density, trying to keep it at 100 square feet per cow, and he beds the barn at least every other day to make sure there is no manure load. Cows that come into the parlor dirty can result in mastitis and milk quality issues.


3. Clearly mark treated cows

Deutsch uses duct tape because it stays on well and can be easily cut off with scissors. Cows are also marked when dry treated, just in case they find their way into the milking herd too early.

4. Good record keeping

A cow’s first treatment is coded in red so he can track the number of treatments a single cow has within its lactation and use it to make culling decisions. He also records which quarter is treated and the treatment method. Once the milk is cleared, Deutsch will check for somatic cell count and wait until it is below 300,000 before allowing her milk back in the tank. He mentioned he might lower that threshold to 200,000. A list of treated cows is also located in the parlor. Those cows are milked at the very end and cross-checked to the number on the list.

5. Cool milk fast

A plate cooler can be one of the most valuable tools on the farm for milk quality. “You know the quality of milk isn’t getting deteriorated by a temperature rise when it gets above 40 degrees Fahrenheit,” Deutsch said.

6. Maintain milking equipment

Last fall, he received a phone call from his field representative to learn he had an abnormally high plate count. After a lot of troubleshooting, he found some of the screens on the hoses hadn’t been changed in awhile and was restricting the flow of water during the wash cycle.

7. Take milk samples

Prior to treating a cow, Deutsch pulls a milk sample and puts it in the freezer. His veterinarian collects the samples once a week and has them cultured at a lab. “It gives us an idea of what kind of treatment we need to have to treat those animals,” he said. “As well as occasionally, usually twice a year, we’ll pull a milk tank sample just to get a baseline of what we have within the tank.”

Deutsch noted that every operation is a little different. In offering his tips, he said, “If you can take some of the things I have done on my farm and take them back to yours, even though it’s a little different, maybe we can solve a few things.”  PD

Karen Lee

PHOTO: Bill Deutsch. Photo by Karen Lee.